Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation Technology

Flying Car Passes First Flight Test 273

Posted by Soulskill
from the seeking-new-metaphor-for-future-technology dept.
waderoush writes "Terrafugia — the Massachusetts company building a 'roadable aircraft' (that's flying car to you and me) — revealed at a press conference Wednesday that the Transition vehicle has been taken aloft for its maiden flight. The craft, which can fly up to 460 miles at 115 mph and then fold up its wings for 65-mph highway driving, was the subject of two hotly debated Slashdot posts on May 8 and May 13 of last year. The company said the first flight took place in Plattsburgh, NY; retired Air Force Colonel Phil Meteer was at the controls."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Flying Car Passes First Flight Test

Comments Filter:
  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:05PM (#27243675) Homepage

    Flying cars, robot vacuum cleaners... the future of the mid 60's is getting closer every day!

  • Every time I turn around I see another "flying car" that just can't get off the ground financially or technically.

    This one could possibly be different, but I'm just not holding my breath.

    • by somersault (912633) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:09PM (#27243733) Homepage Journal

      Every time I turn around I see another "flying car" that just can't get off the ground financially or technically.

      That would make a great line in a song, sung in a monotone

    • by eln (21727) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:13PM (#27243805) Homepage

      I think it's a waste of time. The logistics involved with actually having a non-trivial number of these things up in the air over urban areas without mass casualties are just too difficult.

      The answer to our traffic woes is probably not flying cars, but rather something like self-driving cars on defined tracks. Most of our traffic problems are caused by people following too closely and overreacting to developments ahead of them (braking harder than necessary, etc), not to mention the general scourge of distracted driving. If the whole process of freeway merging, maintaining safe distance, responding to stimuli outside the vehicle, etc, was handled by an unemotional computer (perhaps interfacing with a central traffic planning computer in more congested areas), things should smooth out.

      Of course, we're still years away from that sort of computing power, but various aspects of the self-driving automobile have been under development for years, and we should eventually get there. At any rate, I find the prospect more realistic than the idea of thousands or millions of flying cars zipping around above New York City.

      • by Big Boss (7354) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:17PM (#27243893)

        The problem with self-driving cars is that they ALL have to be self-driving for it to work properly. I suppose you could designate certain roads as automated only, but how do you enforce it if you do?

        I guess you could add sensors of some kind all around to keep the car from hitting other cars that don't report position data. But if even one of them is off calibration by a little bit.... crash. RADAR isn't great, as there just isn't enough space for independent transmitters. LIDAR might work, but has similar problems.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Managing auto-driving car positioning from a central location is a very bad idea. For this to work realistically the cars need to be able to position themselves independently.
        • by vertinox (846076)

          The problem with self-driving cars is that they ALL have to be self-driving for it to work properly. I suppose you could designate certain roads as automated only, but how do you enforce it if you do?

          I dunno. I guess write them a ticket like they do for every other traffic infraction.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by KillerBob (217953)

            Ah, but in order to enforce it properly, the police would have to be driving an automated car, too. That wouldn't make for a very interesting high speed chase.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by QuantumRiff (120817)

          You have something like a car-pool lane, with very, very steep penalties. (you could even had RFID readers like toll-booths to make sure every mile or so) Couple that with the lower insurance costs for drivers, and it would pick up pretty quick.

        • by FatAlb3rt (533682)

          GPS, proximity sensors, RFID chips embedded in the middle of the lane. That'll get you started. Then sync up cars in a line, 12 inches off the bumper in front of them.

        • 20 years ago, Connie Willis wrote a short story called "Last Of The Winnebagos" that, while it wasn't about this, had it as an aspect. The government started building super-interstates that were limited access, only for computer-controlled cars, and slowly converted all the roads over, one by one, until there were only a few very slow back roads that the old computerless cars could travel. It's a very good and very sad story.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Karganeth (1017580)

          The problem with self-driving cars is that they ALL have to be self-driving for it to work properly.

          Wrong. There have already been successful completely automated cars driven on motorways which could overtake other cars when it needed to. And this was over 10 years ago... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EUREKA_Prometheus_Project [wikipedia.org]

          • by TheLink (130905)
            From the article: "with a mean time between human interventions of 9km"

            It's a decent step, but that is far from completely automated.

            Most beginner human drivers don't need that much intervention after a few lessons, and they're still far from good enough at that point.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jargon82 (996613)
        I honestly think we are pretty much there with regards to computing power. The problem is taking peoples freedom to drive recklessly away.
        • But that is the great asset. Excessive carbon users killing themselves. The trick is to stop them killing sedate boring old farts like me.

          A flying car (sorry about getting back on topic) could be mandated to only be able to fly over farmland and wilderness. They could also be a required part of any bankers bonus package. That way they just kill each other with a low chance of killing the innocent. (Innocent is anyone looking on and wishing they had bonuses like that.)

          The Darwin effect could be a bit slow, s
      • by Narpak (961733) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:24PM (#27244009)

        Every time I turn around I see another "flying car" that just can't get off the ground financially or technically.

        This one could possibly be different, but I'm just not holding my breath.

        I think it's a waste of time. The logistics involved with actually having a non-trivial number of these things up in the air over urban areas without mass casualties are just too difficult.

        I reckon for flying personal vehicles to be actually feasible you need anti-gravity, a portal powersource capable of powering said anti-gravity-device, and some sort of master control network capable of automating and coordinating all such vehicles in the air to ensure they don't collide (among other things). So I would say the likelihood of personal air vehicles becoming feasible is rather slim at the moment.

      • by petermgreen (876956) <plugwash@@@p10link...net> on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:35PM (#27244141) Homepage

        Indeed, while I think flying cars like this one may find a niche. I don't think they will ever take off on a large scale.

        You will still need a pilots license (albiet only a light sport pilot license asusming terrafugia meet thier weight goals). You will still need a registered airfield to take off and land legally so it will only be worth using for longer trips. Finally it is rather expensive ($200000 iirc).

        So I don't see there being enough of them in they sky to have a significant impact.

        Of course that doesn't mean terrafugia won't be successfull. A small buisness (Which afaict is what terrafugia are) can be perfectly successfull with a niche product.

        • by $1uck (710826)
          If I ever had an absurd amount of expendable money, I wouldn't be very interested in a flying car. What would pique my interest is a Flying RV especially one that could do VTOL.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Molochi (555357)

            Sikorsky S-61C. Room for the whole family. 7000 hours till next inspection. Only flown on Sundays. usd 2.4million cheap. No Dealers.

        • by D Ninja (825055)

          Indeed, while I think flying cars like this one may find a niche, I don't think they will ever take off on a large scale.

          Hahahaha. Whether you intended it or not, this was actually a pretty funny joke. Flying cars...not taking off. Get it?

      • by Colin Smith (2679)

        Of course, we're still years away from that sort of computing power

        http://www.atsltd.co.uk/ [atsltd.co.uk]

         

      • by eth1 (94901) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:48PM (#27244355)

        This issue gets brought up every time this thing is mentioned.

        It's NOT a replacement for garden-variety cars. It's a replacement for light aircraft that solves the last mile problem and allows for home storage without living on an airport.

      • The answer to our traffic woes is probably not flying cars, but rather something like self-driving cars on defined tracks.

        This has been deployed all over the world, for over 50 years. [wikipedia.org]
        Cars are obsolete.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by sycodon (149926)

        Their target market is not the folks who take 45 mins to an hour to drive 5-10 miles to work in 45 rush hour traffic.

        More like folks living 25-30 miles from an urban center who fly into the local airport and then take 45 mins to an hour to drive 5-10 miles in rush hour traffic.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        Self driving cars on defined tracks? No, we already define where people can drive pretty well, having it be narrowed even further would depend on the implementation.

        I guess you are trying to, I don't know, reinvent a railroad? /facepalms, not trying to be ad hominem

        • by baxissimo (135512)

          It would basically be a railroad, yes. But a railroad without rails and one in which the "trains" are composed of autonomous units which can join and detach at any time without the entire "train" having to stop. And that means a "train" that is capable of taking you door-to-door instead of picking you up 30 miles from your point of embarkation and dropping you off 20 miles from your final destination. Maybe these roads of the future could even allow cars to tap into overhead electric lines, so as to ta

      • by GPS Pilot (3683) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:16PM (#27244749)

        Everyone worries that the skies will become a deathtrap when flying cars, driven by people without pilots' licenses, hit the market. But the collision-avoidance solution is simple if they're all flying autonomously. In 2009, it's trivial for inexpensive consumer devices to communicate with each other wirelessly. Similarly, flying cars need to broadcast their positions and velocities to all other aircraft within a few km radius (via WiMAX or similar technology).

        Then, all it takes are some simple "right of way" rules and a small amount of computing power to compute the slight course adjustments needed to avoid collisions, or even to avoid intersecting another aircraft's wake vortices. This will also eliminate "air lanes," and the fear of them becoming saturated with traffic. All aircraft will simply fly the shortest point-to-point great circle route, except when the computer tells it to deviate to avoid another aircraft, another aircraft's wake vortices, a region of bad weather, or an ADIZ.

        Because three-dimensional airspace is so vast, it will be able to accommodate exponentially more traffic than the current "air lanes" concept.

        Autonomous flight is a much easier problem to solve than autonomous ground vehicles. A large but simple database will allow the aircraft to avoid obstacles like mountains and tall structures. An autonomous ground vehicle, on the other hand, would need to tackle machine vision problems like discriminating between an actual pedestrian and a picture of human on a bus-stop advertisement.

      • by SkyDude (919251)

        Of course, we're still years away from that sort of computing power, but various aspects of the self-driving automobile have been under development for years, and we should eventually get there.

        Will they be running on Microsoft Windows 777?

      • The answer to our traffic woes is probably not flying cars, but rather something like self-driving cars on defined tracks.

        you mean like subway/metro trains?

      • by SirGarlon (845873)

        Of course, we're still years away from that sort of computing power

        I disagree; I think the computing power is available now. What we are years away from is being able to accept the public safety implications of a self driving car. For my part I think a machine can already do a better job than 90% of the drivers out there under typical circumstances. It's the atypical circumstances, when something unexpected happens, that I worry about.

        But you're right, in order to make "flying cars" practical we'd need v

      • The answer to our traffic woes is probably not flying cars, but rather something like self-driving cars on defined tracks. Most of our traffic problems are caused by people following too closely and overreacting to developments ahead of them (braking harder than necessary, etc), not to mention the general scourge of distracted driving. If the whole process of freeway merging, maintaining safe distance, responding to stimuli outside the vehicle, etc, was handled by an unemotional computer (perhaps interfacing with a central traffic planning computer in more congested areas), things should smooth out.

        Congratulations. You have just handed the government the ability to monitor and control the movements of everyone, everywhere. Now aren't you proud of yourself?

      • by Weasel Boy (13855) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @05:18PM (#27247791) Journal

        "self-driving cars on defined tracks"

        We have these. They are called "trains". And they are very efficient, too.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Eivind (15695)

        I actually think railable cars is a much better solution than *flyable* cars. There's multiple concepts for regular cars that have a "slit" under the middle that make it possible for them to drive on a monorail.

        The advantages are many, compared to normal car:

        For longer commutes, you can spend the time on the rail sensibly (catching up on news or email, for example)

        Higher capacity, on the rail the cars can form a "train" with zero inter-vehicle distance, which means a single rail can have the capacity of 4-5

    • by Mr2cents (323101) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:15PM (#27243851)

      I know at least one reporter [youtube.com] that's going to be thrilled...

    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:15PM (#27243855)

      To me, this is more of a drive-able airplane than it is a flying car. I know, maybe there isn't any difference but to me a flying car is something that flys which replaces my car. This is something that I can drive on regular roads that replaces my airplane.

      It's a different market, a different use, and a very different price point. It might succeed, but personally I still wouldn't call it a successful flying car.

  • by SoundGuyNoise (864550) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:10PM (#27243745) Homepage

    Transition® Roadable Aircraft Proof of Concept.

    TRAP Concept? Oh, sign me up!

  • by A. B3ttik (1344591) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:12PM (#27243795)
    This has been beaten to death over and over again, and I thought that, by now, people would understand that this product isn't a Jetson's "Flying Car," but already, with just two comments, we've got someone confused on the subject.

    This is not a Jetson's style "Flying Car" for everyone to keep in their driveways. It is a plane that can fold its wings and has enough lights such that it is street legal. It is meant as something for private pilots (with pilot licenses) such that they can store their planes at home and "drive" them to the local airport before taking off on a pleasure flight.

    It is NOT meant for people to fly to work after taking off from their garages, merging onto the skyway, and passing some old geezers flying outdated DeLoreans.

    It's just a plane that you can also legally 'drive' on the road. That's it.
    • by teknopurge (199509) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:14PM (#27243825) Homepage

      We needed a starting-point. This is it.

      • I agree entirely. My comment was specifically targeting the naysayers with comments like "I've wanted a flying car for 30 years! All promises and no delieveries. Why will this be different."

        My point is that this _is_ different.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eln (21727)

      Nobody is interested in an airplane the super-rich can drive to their villas after their day trip to the Bahamas. Everyone is interested in flying cars. If you put up an article about something that looks like it could someday lead to flying cars, people are going to comment on flying cars and what they would mean and how plausible they are.

      Without the flying car connection, this article is more suited for some magazine that sells over-priced crap that no one needs like SkyMall, not Slashdot.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by A. B3ttik (1344591)
        It IS an innovation in technology... and Slashdot is about Technology.

        We have articles on Jetpacks and stuff that only the rich can afford... this is no different.
    • Back in 2003 I had to travel for work about 120 miles every day (60 miles too and back). I wished I had a flying car every day. I could leave from a small airport in my City land at a small air port at my destination. Drive to the office. I could probably go from from point to point in about 1/2 the time. if I had a flying car (about 1/2 hour travel). I would say something like this would be perfect.

  • by Jay Maynard (54798) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:14PM (#27243843) Homepage

    The video voice-over says that the Terrafugia's empty weight is 890 pounds. With a maximum gross weight of 1320 pounds set by the Light Sport AIrcraft rules, this leaves a useful load of just 430 pounds. Gasoline weighs 6 pounds per gallon. With two real people aboard, it won't have much range...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gfxguy (98788)

      Yeah... unfortunately, the kind of thing I'd really want something like this for is visiting my family in Florida (from Georgia). At 550 miles, it's way over the maximum range of this thing, and I have two kids. And two dogs. And, of course, luggage.

      Otherwise I'd buy one of these in a heartbeat. If they took a slightly postdated check, that is.

      • Nothing stopping you landing en-route and filling up... like a car :)

        Honestly, a 550 mile range at 115mph... that's about what I'd expect from an LSA (Light Sport Aircraft); about 4 hours. You measure in fuel burn, not distance, because range in distance can change with wind.

        But yeah... the two kids, dogs and luggage... yeah, this isn't your aircraft :)

        • BTW, is that 115 MPH, or 115 knots (about 135 MPH)? Most modern aircraft report speeds in knots.

    • by Shakrai (717556)

      this leaves a useful load of just 430 pounds. Gasoline weighs 6 pounds per gallon. With two real people aboard, it won't have much range...

      Or just one American ;) *rimshot*

    • Welcome to the state of the art in light airplane design. This is woefully common.

      Back in the early '90s when I had just earned my pilot's license, I flew a Cessna 152 that had been modified with a slightly larger engine and had the extended range fuel tanks (due to the slightly larger engine). Due to the weight of the larger engine and the bigger fuel tanks, I was limited to about 350 miles range (plus FAA required reserves) if I was flying solo, IIRC. I *couldn't* legally fly it with a passenger, un
      • Yeah, I know...my Zodiac's useful load is only 470 pounds. I can carry me and a passenger and fuel, but I have to be careful about how much fuel - but that's still on the order of 20 gallons, which takes me as far as I want to go in one leg anyway.

  • This thing won't be more than a novelty if it's light aeroframe can't survive an impact with one of those giant SUVs driven by some guy yelling at his girlfriend on a cell phone... You'll be the jelly between two pieces of fiberglass. Plus, until it can land on a public street, and pull into a parking spot, and then take off again on the same street, without violating the speed limit, I don't see it having much practicality to Joe Average.

    That said... Good job. We here at Slashdot love seeing what bored eng

    • The speed limit isn't typically the problem. The FAA limits single-engine airplanes to a minimum controllable airspeed ("stall speed", if you want to get technical) of 65 knots -- that's around 70MPH. There are many, many light airplanes that can take off and land near 50MPH, so it isn't *that* difficult to find a road that you could take off or land on without exceeding the speed limit.

      However, many (most?) municipalities frown on taking off of landing on roads in their jurisdiction as a mat
  • by wiredog (43288) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:24PM (#27244001) Journal

    Think it'd have trouble towing my bass boat.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by D Ninja (825055)

      Think it'd have trouble towing my bass boat.

      Yeah. Especially while in the air...

  • how much crosswind can it take before you are upside down in the ditch?
  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:42PM (#27244263) Homepage Journal

    While I am looking forward to a flying car, on the condition it doesn't consume more fuel that the current automobile, I can't wonder who will be driving those things. At least with current aviation you know that people have a pilot's license and have a certain sense of wanting to live, but if I look at some of the drivers around me when I drive, then I can't help wonder whether putting these people at the helm of a flying vehicle would be such a wise thing. Imagine:

    normal:
    - driving instructor: look left and right before entering the intersection
    - ditsy learner: ooh look at the flowers
    - driving instructor: watch out for the car!!!!

    flying:
    - driving instructor: look all around you before crossing the vertical air junction
    - ditsy learner: ohh those cars look like ants
    - driving instructor: keep your altitude!!!

    • flying:
      - driving instructor: look all around you before crossing the vertical air junction
      - ditsy learner: ohh those cars look like ants
      - driving instructor: keep your altitude!!!

      I hope it will be a lot more like:
      flying:
      - flight computer: Please enter your destination.
      - ditsy traveller: ohh those cars look like ants
      - flight computer: We have now arrived at your destination. Have a pleasant day.

  • by ari_j (90255) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:45PM (#27244309)
    You guys have 6 years to come up with the technology to install a hover conversion on my Delorean. I've been waiting for a long time already, so don't fail me.
    • by furby076 (1461805)
      Vote for me to be your president and I shall change your life by making your hopes and dreams come true by giving you flying cars in ten years!
  • by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:51PM (#27244389)
    If you want a real flying car, try http://www.moller.com/ [moller.com] Sure, they aren't making them and are "four years away from FAA certification (and have been 2 years away from certification for the past 20 years or so, so it's getting worse)." But they are cool, and more like what people think of when talking about flying cars.
    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      No thanks, I'd prefer a flying car that actually flies with a human on board! Preferably one designed by somebody that hasn't been charged with fraud by the SEC. After 40 years of development and countless millions in gullible investor money burned through, the Moller Sky Car still has never flown without being attached to a crane, and has never been piloted except by a tether. At what point should one conclude that this is serious snake-oil?
  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @01:57PM (#27244467) Homepage

    'roadable aircraft' (that's flying car to you and me)

    Not quite.

    The problem with conventional small aircraft is that once you've flown your Cesna 172 (or whatever) to your destination, you find that you're at an airfield way out of town somewhere, and you don't have a car.

    Terrafugia is a solution that, once you land, you have a car. Which would be very handy sometimes!

    But it's not really a "flying car" in the science-fiction sense.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @02:04PM (#27244575) Homepage
    Flying cars already exist. This attempt, like so many others, makes the stupid "we need a fixed wing" assumption.

    This makes it a much better aircraft, but as always causes HUGE problems on the ground. It causes huge air-drag, even when foled up. They need to do it the other way. Make a good car that can also fly. Why? Because if flight is your major interest, then you always will need.

    Specifically, go the powered parachute route. (Basic, non-street legal version here: http://www.easyflight.com/ [easyflight.com])

    Your wing needs to be packable, not merely foldable - once. Once you do that, make it street legal, like this: http://blog.wired.com/cars/2008/11/the-worlds-firs.html [wired.com]

    Yes, it is a pusher prop instead of the more tradional forward based properller. This means the prop is not blocking the driver's view.

    But the most important thing is that wing is CHEAP, and when not being used to fly, can get packed away into the trunk of your car.

    • Can you get a powered parachute with a Vh of 120 knots? I don't recall seeing any with cruise speeds faster than a car on a freeway.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gurps_npc (621217)
        The Vh of Parajet's street legal car is about 60 knots. There are many non-street legal powered parachutes that hit 87 knots (100 mph). (see http://www.softwingflight.com/news-releases-powered-parachutes [softwingflight.com]) This is because the FAA has a maximum VH of 87 knot limit (100 mph) for the current sports license.

        If you don't care about the sports license limits, I don't think it would be a problem to upgrade the engine, but then you would need the better pilot license to fly them.

        Honestly, raising your top

        • This is because the FAA has a maximum VH of 87 knot limit (100 mph) for the current sports license.
          This is not correct. The sport pilot license is good for any light sport aircraft, with at most an additional signoff required for those with a Vh of over 87 knots but less than 120 knots. My AMD Zodiac XLi [tronguy.net] is a light sport aircraft, with a Vh of 120 knots. See the definition of "light sport aircraft" in section 1.1 of the FAA's rules.

    • Hmmm...I think you are onto something. I don't know that I would recommend a powered parachute, but how about an autogyro with rotors that rotate around the hub to stow away after landing? A lot of the kitplanes have folding wings -- you pull a pin, and the wing rotates back alongside the fuselage for trailering. If you did something similar with the rotors on a gyroplane, you could get decent cruise speed (faster than a powered parachute, anyway) and still have something that is more roadable than a fol
  • I Want One (Score:2, Informative)

    by johnshirley (709044)
    Don't care what naysayers are spouting. I want one. And I'm nowhere near super rich (lower middle class, actually). Sure, I'd need a pilot's license -- they don't just give those things away like they do with driver's licenses.

    Sure, the price tag is a bit steep -- about twice the cost of a Cessna 162 (a two-seat light sport plane) yet only 2/3 the cost of a Cessna 172 (4-seat personal aircraft).

    It comes down to desire and value.

    If you desire something and that thing has value to you, then it's wort
  • I want to see how fast it can do the test course, on the ground, and in the air! Dave
  • Damn you, Moller (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday March 18, 2009 @04:43PM (#27247287) Journal

    See, this would be far cooler if Moller hadn't set the bar so high with his vaporware. 4 seater, 350mph cruise, and 16MPG, and near VTOL - even when it turns out to be technically impossible - is still the standard flying car of my dreams.

"Someone's been mean to you! Tell me who it is, so I can punch him tastefully." -- Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse

Working...