Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation Technology

New Flying Car Design Unveiled 233

Posted by samzenpus
from the better-late-than-never dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Terrafugia has unveiled plans to build a semi-autonomous, hybrid-electric, vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicle for personal aviation. The new design, called TF-X, is in the works even as the company's first product, Transition, is still awaiting production because of technical and regulatory hurdles. Terrafugia's founder says the goal of TF-X, if it can get past the safety issues in both aviation and automotive industries, is to 'open up personal aviation to all of humanity.' But it will have a lot of competition from companies including AgustaWestland, Pipistrel, and the stealthy Zee.Aero, all of which are working on vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicles for consumers."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Flying Car Design Unveiled

Comments Filter:
  • Yeah. Now (Score:5, Funny)

    by MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) on Monday May 06, 2013 @02:47PM (#43645371)

    When I'm getting too old to safely drive one.

  • Are they safe? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by taleman (147513) on Monday May 06, 2013 @02:48PM (#43645381) Homepage

    What happens when flying cars collide with buildings or other infrastructure?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 06, 2013 @02:54PM (#43645453)

      The DMV tests will ensure that all drivers are properly qualified to be in the sky.

      • The DMV tests will ensure that all drivers are properly qualified to be in the sky.

        Okay, now you've just scared me to death. The thought of flying cars in the hands of the average motorist (shudder!)

    • Re:Are they safe? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Baloroth (2370816) on Monday May 06, 2013 @03:01PM (#43645535)

      The same thing that happens when any other small plane collides with buildings or other infrastructure... which is why actually flying something like this will require a pilot's license.

      • by Twinbee (767046)
        Alternatively, we could create a repelling force inversely proportional to the square or cube of the distance. I understand it probably won't have instant thrust in all directions, but a future flying car could, and it would be a lot more fun than the computer driving it.
    • by Ryanrule (1657199)

      youtube videos

    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      More importantly, what happens when they have a mechanical problem? Looking at the way most people take care of their automobiles, I fear the day that people start owning flying cars. People will try to drive around in the winter with only a square foot of frost removed from their windshield and 4 square inches removed from the side window so they can see the driver's side mirror. I hate to think that anybody would be bothered with a pre-flight checklist [csinvesting.org]. When a car on the road has a mechanical problem, i
      • by Cinder6 (894572)

        It would be pretty simple to have the car simply refuse to fly if it didn't pass some sort of internal systems check. What I'm more worried about is the fact that most people would make terrible, terrible flyers. People have enough trouble with just two dimensions...

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          How does a car/plane know how much rust is on the body of the vehicle? How easily can it determine the condition of the propeller blades? How does a plane know how far you're going to fly, and the wind speed and direction to account for how much fuel you're going to need for the trip? You could start putting sensors in for some basic stuff, but too many sensors and the thing gets way too costly, or simply always reports that something is wrong, and thus you can never fly the thing.
        • by HappyHead (11389)
          Will the internal systems check be able to verify that the hub-caps are all clipped on properly, the mirrors haven't been knocked loose (to the point of falling off), etc? The street I used to live on had a railroad crossing with a steep grade on either side of it, and all up and down the street were littered pieces of poorly maintained cars - hubcaps, mirrors, door handles, the occasional fender (how do you not notice that falling off?), and once a mostly intact (though very rusty) car door sitting in the
    • by icebike (68054)

      What happens when flying cars collide with buildings or other infrastructure?

      You needn't worry about this because flying cars are never going to be generally available for Ma and Pa Polyester.
      When every minor fender bender turns into a death rain of falling parts you can bet that society will come to its senses.
      Just won't happen.

      • What happens when flying cars collide with buildings or other infrastructure?

        You needn't worry about this because flying cars are never going to be generally available for Ma and Pa Polyester. When every minor fender bender turns into a death rain of falling parts you can bet that society will come to its senses. Just won't happen.

        I'm rich, and I can always get what I want. And I want one of dem dere flying things. (Do you see the problem?)

        • by icebike (68054)

          Even rich people have to get a license to fly their own planes.

          Any other questions?

          • Even rich people have to get a license to fly their own planes.

            Any other questions?

            Yes, a few. What license will you need when they fly themselves? Just your drivers licnse for when you're operating on the ground. My point was, "Having money does not equate to having skill and common sense (re: Robert Kennedy Jr.). But if they're basically autonomous, the human skill level is a moot arguement, except for being able to decide whether or not it's safe for this 'car' to land. The price will eventually come down where 'Ma and Pa' will have them.

            • by icebike (68054)

              Nope.

              245 Million cars registered in the US.
              Imagine all that mess in the air.

              There is no technology that can route 300,000 autonomous vehicles in real time, let alone the sudden decision to stop for ice cream on the way home. There isn't enough radar bandwidth to handle that many targets, there isn't enough on-board computing power to route around even 1 thousand nearby targets.

              Over North America on any given day, there are seldom anywhere near 10,000 aircraft aloft at any one time. Yet you propose 240 mill

              • Well, then you have to put all the vehicle control in the hands of computers. No, I really don't want an inexperienced pilot in the air either. Take the human equation out of the picture entirely, or else there are going to be accidents, and they'll come with more carnage (like when flying cars start hitting peoples homes, should be interesting).

                If they're like 'google cars', scaling up the tech to meet demand will be akin to building a new road system, one that's in the 3D airspace. Once the kinks get wo

        • by mobby_6kl (668092)

          You still haven't crashed your helicopter, so why would this be any different?

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Monday May 06, 2013 @03:27PM (#43645893)

      What happens when flying cars collide with buildings or other infrastructure?

      Getting into your car will require a TSA scanning.

    • Re:Are they safe? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NatasRevol (731260) on Monday May 06, 2013 @03:49PM (#43646175) Journal

      Same thing that happens when cars collide with buildings or other infrastructure.

    • What happens when flying cars collide with buildings or other infrastructure?

      Although modern infrastructure has placed barriers to prevent impact around many road level surfaces (curbs, posts, trees, fences, etc) I'm not sure that's not the correct question on safety. Planes can do that currently.

      What is needed to ask is what are the safety mechanisms in place for when something fails in power or structure. At least with a plane you have the ability to glide a certain amount and some steerage if the engine goes out, but I guess with helicopters you really don't. Some even have

      • At least with a plane you have the ability to glide a certain amount and some steerage if the engine goes out, but I guess with helicopters you really don't.

        Actually, with a helicopter, when the engine goes out the rotor keeps spinning and the 'copter becomes an autogyro. It doesn't become a brick and fall out of the sky. It can glide to a certain extent.

    • What happens when flying cars collide with buildings or other infrastructure?

      Same thing that happens to everything else. [dramatic turn and walk away]

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      What happens when flying cars collide with buildings or other infrastructure?

      Or more importantly, when somebody intentionally flies one into a building?

  • by cruff (171569) on Monday May 06, 2013 @02:54PM (#43645447)
    when I fire up the gas turbine after using the undoubtedly noisy props to do a vertical take off. I'm sure I'd hate the noise too.
  • by CohibaVancouver (864662) on Monday May 06, 2013 @03:01PM (#43645541)
    Enough with the "Fake" Flying Cars Already - I think everyone is getting tired of these 'flying car' stories, be they on /., Wired, PopSci or wherever.

    A Flying Car uses some kind of anti-gravity device. It can float. Don't show me a hovercraft, helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft.

    For greater clarity but so as not to limit the generality of the foregoing, see:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhF4gu87rn0 [youtube.com]
    • by Robotbeat (461248)

      Enough with the "Fake" Flying Cars Already - I think everyone is getting tired of these 'flying car' stories, be they on /., Wired, PopSci or wherever.

      A Flying Car uses some kind of anti-gravity device. It can float. Don't show me a hovercraft, helicopter or fixed-wing aircraft....

      So determined are you to avoid acknowledging that, yeah, this fits pretty darned well the idea of a "flying car" that you'll move the goalposts so now it's only called "flying" if it uses something that currently is physically impossible? So, birds don't really fly either, then?

      Nonsense.

      A VTVL flying car as pictured is definitely a "real" flying car (i.e. we expected the future to look like). There is no misnomer in calling the concept a flying car. It's not an anti-gravity car, but that's why it's not call

      • So determined are you to avoid acknowledging that, yeah, this fits pretty darned well the idea of a "flying car" that you'll move the goalposts so now it's only called "flying" if it uses something that currently is physically impossible? So, birds don't really fly either, then?

        I guess that the designation "car" refers to the major design features. If it has large wings and a long tail with a rudder, an elevator, and a propeller attached to what coincidentally looks like a car body, it it still a car? According to your logic, a frog with wings would make a bird. (Bats aren't birds either, for that matter.)

        • by Robotbeat (461248)

          A frog with wings would be a flying frog, not a bird.

          BTW, did you bother clicking through to read the article? At least as portrayed, most of the space is taken up by the body of the car. It looks like a flying car, not like a roadable aircraft like the original terrafugia.

      • by swb (14022)

        It seems to me that there is an implication that something called a "flying car" will have more in common with an automobile than it will an airplane (otherwise we might call it a driving plane).

        This means that it will have the basic ease of use of a car, and I think to make something like that happen you DO have to move the goalposts pretty damn far down field.

        While it might not necessarily imply antigravity, I think it does involve a type of propulsion and control we can't do right now with existing techn

        • by Robotbeat (461248)

          Control is definitely a solvable problem, and if ANYTHING has progressed incredibly rapidly, it's computer and sensor technology. Propulsion is solvable, as well. I don't see what's wrong with propellers controlled by electric motors (which have very fast response and very long life).

          • by swb (14022)

            Propulsion is solvable by what power source?

            Electric fan motors are fine, but a "flying car" isn't supposed to be an ultralight aircraft. People are going to expect the carrying capacities of a car.

            To get VTOL you have to start comparing powerplants with helicopters. Even the small ones used for medical transport use gas turbines. I guess that's great performance, but a propulsion package using gas turbines to generate power for electric fans sounds complex.

    • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp2TWNpTA7s [youtube.com]

      This really is an amazing design and does blur the line between car and airplane.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Do flying planes use some form of anti-gravity? Can they float in the air?

      You're re-defining 'fly' to a very narrow (and entirely fictional) purpose.

      Sure, the Jetsons had the whole hovering thing, but the flying car we've been hearing about for decades has often been the car/plan hybrid.

      We don't have any physics which leads us to this anti-gravity you seem to think is a precondition, so I have no idea on what basis you feel a flying car needs to have that.

  • Let'sa go! (Score:2, Troll)

    by wcrowe (94389)

    Look, I am part Italian, and I don't wish to insult my Mediterranean paisani, but, if I ever do own a flying car it will NOT be of Italian manufacture.., sorry.

    • by kraut (2788)

      You'd seriously pass on a flying Ferrari or Lamborghini?

      Pfft. Your parents were telling you lies. You're definitely NOT part Italian. Not even one tiny little bit. ;)

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Monday May 06, 2013 @03:05PM (#43645599) Homepage

    Most drivers don't seem to be able to handle safely navigating on surface roads.

    I'm pretty sure the vast majority have no hope in hell of operating a flying car when they have up and down available to them.

    And I can't see the FAA wanting to suddenly let a bunch of people start taking to the skies in something like this without a proper pilots license.

    • by Robotbeat (461248)

      Forgot to RTFA, I see. The vehicles would be self-driving.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        No, I didn't forget to read it ... I just don't believe we're going to be able to build the infrastructure to have millions of autonomous flying vehicles soaring around the world.

        My opinion of what you and TFA describe is something which is a cool intellectual exercise, but so damned far from something which can be made into reality as to be a waste of time.

        We can't solve basic problems like feeding people and not trying to kill each other constantly. Millions of autonomous flying cars? That's such a pie-

        • by terjeber (856226)

          I just don't believe we're going to be able to build the infrastructure to have millions of autonomous flying vehicles soaring around the world.

          What infrastructure? The technology (to navigate) is available and in use today, it can all be put into the car it self. No need for infrastructure.

          GPS. proximity sensor, positioning broadcast, a system of flight "corridors" pre-programmed into the cars, or regularly broadcast ota (and changed infrequently - you go north you fly at 300ft, you fly south at 200 ft, east, west etc..

        • by Robotbeat (461248)

          There is, in fact, no problem with feeding people in the developed world. It is, in fact, possible for technology to progress and even become widely available without every single problem in the world being solved.

          And as far as infrastructure, well, the other replier handled that nicely.

        • by oodaloop (1229816)
          Yeah, the internet must have seemed rather improbable before it was created too.
        • by Jeremi (14640)

          I just don't believe we're going to be able to build the infrastructure to have millions of autonomous flying vehicles soaring around the world.

          Millions, no. Tens or even hundreds of thousands, perhaps.

          but so damned far from something which can be made into reality as to be a waste of time.

          An self-flying airplane is a much easier problem to solve than a self-driving car, and they've largely solved the self-driving car problem already.

          We can't solve basic problems like feeding people and not trying to kill each other constantly

          Wow, what a complete non-sequiter. There is nothing that requires thorny political problems to be resolved before technical problems can be addressed.

  • I've lost count of the number of "flying car" projects I've seen over the years. Several have been built, and flew fine, but none have ever been a commercial success. It's a solution to a problem that doesn't appear to exist.
    • by Hentes (2461350) on Monday May 06, 2013 @03:16PM (#43645749)

      The problem does exist. Traffic jams are real, and flying in a straight line could save a lot of fuel. There is plenty of demand for flying cars, the problems have always been legislatory.

      • by kraut (2788) on Monday May 06, 2013 @04:30PM (#43646789)

        Traffic jams are real, but putting the cars in the air isn't going to fix that problem. The key problem with driving cars into cities is that they take too much space per passenger (at rush hour, on average, 1.02). Granted, putting traffic corridors in the air gives you a bit more space, but you also need to leave a lot more safety margin.

        Flying in a straight line might save fuel compared to flying detours, but that doesn't mean it saves fuel compared to driving. These flying cars don't stay in the air all by themselves, you know? And, seeing as we're all bitching about the price of gas to drive... ask your friendly helicopter pilot how many gallons his chopper burns per hour.

        There are solutions to traffic jams. Telecommuting, walking, cycling, public transport.

        Oh yeah, and if your hearing's still too good: Suggest to Air Traffic Control that they replace the couple of hundred planes / day over, say, LAX, with a couple of hundred thousand planes^H^H^H^H^H^H"Flying Cars" per day.

        Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a flying car. But frankly I'd rather save up for a one off trip to space instead. At least I won't have to kid myself that that's solving any problems.

      • There have been flying cars, such as the Taylor Aerocar, which were certificated by the FAA or its previous agencies. They were built, and a few were flown. Their capabilities were adequately demonstrated. The problem was, almost no one bought them.

        There was no legislation problem. You needed a pilots' license to fly, and a drivers' license to drive them. Maintenance had to be done by a certificated aircraft mechanic, because, after all, it was an airplane. Normal flight rules and road rules applied.

        W
    • by compro01 (777531)

      It's a solution to a problem that does exist, just not the problem you think it is.

      It saves you having to store your plane (with attendant fees) and rent a car (more money) or arrange for a ride (more hassle) after flying halfway across the country. Just fold in the wings and drive from the airport to wherever you're actually going.

      Now the question remains is how much this thing will cost and whether it will be within the price range of the above mentioned small aircraft pilot.

  • There are 2 paths. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by briancox2 (2417470) on Monday May 06, 2013 @03:07PM (#43645637) Homepage Journal
    Either flying cars will always require a traditional pilot's license. Or we will first need to master the art of self-driving cars and remove almost any possibility that a passenger or owner of a vehicle can control the fine traveling decisions of the craft; i.e. only decide the desitnation.

    I actually prefer the latter.
  • Part of the safety of aviation is that certain parts have a known lifetime and there are programs in place to make sure that those parts are replaced before they become a problem. Planes are not like cars. The stresses of take offs and landings are way more significant than that of just driving a car around on the road. Are people ready for the cost of servicing their cars not every X number of miles but every X number of hours? And im not talking oil change here, Im talking about service on the leve
    • by Robotbeat (461248)

      So, more of a Japanese-style of only allowing tip-top vehicles. Works for them, it could work for us (for flying cars). Also, Terrafugia comes with a full-plane parachute, so you wouldn't "literally drop out of the sky."

    • by kryliss (72493)

      The people that will be able to afford these should be able to pay for the maintenance.

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      The proposed design is a copter.
      Your arguments only apply to planes, and even more-so to reactor planes.

      • Which part of his argument doesn't apply to helicopters?

  • by bradgoodman (964302) on Monday May 06, 2013 @03:09PM (#43645659) Homepage
    If this even comes to light (which I doubt it will) - the way these things go is as follows, based off recent history and similar products. It will not be a "flying car", but rather a "roadable helicopter". This means it will require a helicopter pilot's license. This won't be something you buy at you local dealership, get your license at a local DMV, and you and all your neighbors will be commuting to work in your flying cars. They will probably take-off and land at places helicopters are now permitted (airports), and serve as an alternative means of transport and storage before/after doing so.
    • by suutar (1860506)
      Gyroplane rotorcraft (such as the PAL-V 1 [metzeler.com] et al) have slightly less stringent [enewbold.com] requirements than full helicopters [autorotate.org] for a private license. Which is not to say that it's fast and cheap, but probably not quite the 10-15 thousand dollars for a helo. And part of the beauty of the PAL-V 1 and the like is that you can lane split (motorcycle laws permitting) on your way to the airport :)
  • The great thing about technology like this is it opens up the possibility for more remote commuter communities that do not rely on a large network of roads to connect to major work centers, and can be farther away as these craft can travel much faster than land vehicles.

    There are already some housing developments today with small airfields where people live with planes. But a smaller craft that can take off vertically means you just need something like a "launch park", parks are things that communities wou

  • by kannibal_klown (531544) on Monday May 06, 2013 @03:17PM (#43645761)

    Face it, most people have a hard enough time on a (relatively) 2 dimensional plane. Accidents all over the place. Now you have to worry about people coming from all 3 dimensions... forget about it.

    Add to that, at least it is normally hard for someone to go through the side of a house unless the accident is really bad or they were driving really fast. Now anyone would be EASILY able to go through a roof.

  • Before anyone comments, I would absolutely love to fly one of these manually (instead of through computer automation), and the way we can address the safety issue is to have a repelling motion with any other flying vehicles (or indeed the ground or buildings). The force would inversely proportional to the square or cube of the distance, and it means we can fly around having fun and not worry about crashing into anything.

    Just thought I'd put it out there, as I bet someone is itching to say an 'average Joe
  • At least this thing is jet turbine powered. Turbine-powered VTOL craft have been working since the 1950s. With enough power to weight, it can get off the ground even if the shape isn't very good aerodynamically.

    The problem with aircraft jet turbine engines is cost. They can be made small, but below bizjet size, making them smaller doesn't bring the cost down much. That's why general aviation still runs on pistons. Many engine makers, most notably Williams International [williams-int.com], have tried to crack the turbojet

  • In other news, farmers markets will need to start equipping anti air guns and flak cannons.

    If you though there were a lot of elderly driving into these things before, just wait until they could decided to land in the middle of them.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Monday May 06, 2013 @03:19PM (#43645795) Homepage Journal

    And meantime, 50 years later, Moller is exactly NOWHERE.
    The dude's concepts have been on the cover of Popular Mechanics since... what... 1972? And he has yet to even sell one flying car.

  • Flying cars are a really bad idea. As shown by the accident reports the vast majority of people can not handle driving in two dimensions. Add another dimension and the accident rate will skyrocket. Even with autopilots they will be dangerous. Add altitude and speed and the death rate will climb even more dramatically. Perhaps we should consider this evolution at work. Call the car "Darwin".

  • It's one thing to get a driver/pilot to fly one of these well, it's another to get them to keep them in an air-worthy condition. Having worked at a service station and seen how people treat their cars, the thought of them flying overhead scares me. Flying cars do have a place; but it's with those who can afford the infrastructure to keep both them and the pilots in top condition- the military, emergency response, and professional car services.
  • If you visit the Terrafugia website, there are more details of the craft. To my untrained eye (aerospace buff, but not an engineer), it doesn't look feasible - not enough wing surface. Anyway, they are saying that when they begin accepting pre-orders, they will give precedence to owners of their current roadable aircraft, the Terrafugia Transition. So it might be legit or it might be vaporware concocted to help their sales department.
  • I couldn't help but notice THE GIANT SPINNING BLADES on the front of that thing which pretty much guarantee I can't take it to walmart or any other public place. Let me know when you come up with something that doesn't have the relatively high risk of decapitating me if I get out of it too quickly.

  • This all sounds nice but will it be more fuel efficient than current land vehicles? Will it be less poluting than land vehicles? Will it be more convenient to use and cheaper to own than land vehicles? If the answer to those questions is "No," then why bother doing this? Sure it may be fun, but if it burns more oil, polutes more air, costs more to operate and is less convenienent, what is the point?

  • by bobbied (2522392) on Monday May 06, 2013 @07:38PM (#43648891)

    We've been down this road/runway time and again and while it is possible, it's not going to be practical for a long time. From a licensed private pilot who also holds a class B CDL and could actually LEGALLY drive/fly this thing, here are the reasons why this ain't going to happen....

    1. The Car/Plane will need to be certified by TWO authorities, the NHTSA and the FAA (in the USA).

    2. It will have to meet the minimum crash standards of the NHTSA, the Emission standards for other vehicles including the OBDII and Cafe mileage standards, yet meet the FAA's technical standard for a commercially produced aircraft (assume you don't build these yourself..)

    3. Designing for both authorities will make it a horrible car and a worse airplane. It won't be comfortable and it will be hugely expensive.

    4. The driver/pilot will need to be licensed to drive as well as have a suitable pilot's license, ratings, medical certificate, log book endorsements, and be current for the type of flying to be done in order to take passengers. Flying is an expensive hobby and you have to fly regularly to be proficient and safe.

    5. ALL maintenance will need to be done by properly certified (by the FAA) mechanics using fully vetted and certified parts, and you thought a brake job was expensive for your car, trust me, you haven't seen anything, and you simply won't be able to do ANY work yourself or buy tires from your local tire store because they won't be able to legally even loosen the lug nuts on your car/airplane thing.

    6. Large Cities Usually sit under large areas of restricted airspace where flying these things would require a minimum set of navigational equipment, communications equipment and procedural methods to be followed. This is more than just going through the toll booth or HOV lanes. You will need to have a scheduled transit time and an approved filed flight plan in some cases and be talking to ATC in most cases.

    7. VSTOL capable aircraft are usually not fuel efficient being heavy and complicated devices. They have limited useful load for the fuel they burn and suffer from being low range because you simply cannot lift fuel AND people, suitcases, groceries and the like. (The Harrier and V22 don't fix this issue..) You won't be go very far or fly very long.

    8. Alcohol in motor fuels is going to be an issue for aircraft operating conditions.

    It's simply not a practical idea. Sounds like it would be great, but it's just got some serious problems even before you get to thinking about the physics of the whole it's a car, it's a plane engineering problem.

One picture is worth 128K words.

Working...