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Where are the Flying Cars? (Video; Part One of Two) 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the keeping-up-with-the-jetsons dept.
Detroit recently hosted the North American Science Fiction Convention, drawing thousands of SF fans to see and hear a variety of talks on all sorts of topics. One of the biggest panels featured a discussion on perhaps the greatest technological disappointment of the past fifty years: Where are our d@%& flying cars? Panelists included author and database consultant Jonathan Stars, expert in Aeronautical Management and 20-year veteran of the Air Force Douglas Johnson, author and founder of the Artemis Project Ian Randal Strock, novelist Cindy A. Matthews, Fermilab physicist Bill Higgins, general manager of a nanotechnology company Dr. Charles Dezelah, and astrobiology expert Dr. Nicolle Zellner. This video and the one you'll see tomorrow show their lively discussion about the economic, social, and political barriers to development and adoption of affordable flying cars. (Alternate Video Link)

Speaker 1: Communities in space -- and everything else -- is not a one-year, six-month project... unfortunately right now a lot of things even in the government are well-funded, but it’s got to be here within six months to a year. Flying cars, communities in space, it’s going to take multiple years to fund which when we did the space program, which was good, because everybody was in the mood that it would take multiple years to do. But unfortunately it’s not in the current economic environment; that’s why we don’t have a space shuttle and that’s why very soon our astronauts who are up in the space station won’t be able to get back because the Russians are not going to take us there anymore. So that’s why we're trying to find something else that’s not government funded, some commercial operator. But it’s getting down to dollars and cents and what would happen in 6 to 12 months. And can we double things? I worked on a government project which was a dual engine program for the F-35 and they killed it because the government decided, well we don’t need to fund to have two engines for an airplane, we only need one and then after they cut GE’s funding to do it, all of a sudden Pratt & Whitney came to get the engines going through the airplane and are having all kinds of problem. So I think the biggest thing stopping all this is the economics and the money that nobody can get or create a space colony in six months to a year, it’s going to take multiple years.

Speaker 2: I have an answer to the question. I don’t think the barriers are scientific or technical at all because I can show you aircraft flown in the 1930s or the 1940s or 1950s, which were functional flying cars. They were cars that turned into airplanes. You could drive around, you could take them to the airport and fly them in the air and drive from the airport at the other end to your destination. And over and over again people have built aircraft this way and any one of them would be nice to own and they may have various design drawbacks and most importantly the designs are compromised between one kind of people and another. But there are those planes, right? Sometimes building the vehicle is not really the problem. The problem is that nobody who’s ever built a vehicle has sold more than you can count on the fingers of your hands, and so there is a barrier to be broken that’s not in the engineering realm exactly but in the, gee, how do we take this to market, how do we get enough financing to build a bunch of them in our factory, how do we find customers and so forth. And once there are some customers, once you sell a few of these things, then you run into the education barriers, like are there enough people, trained pilots who want one of thesem by the way also trained motorists because you need both, and I guess I’m speaking mostly of the kind of car that turns into an aircraft and vice versa. That’s one definition of flying car, another one is just some kind of vertical takeoff aircraft that you have in your driveway and it takes off and you can go anywhere in it and never bother about driving on the roads. That’s I think the type two kind of flying car.

Cindy A. Matthews: It’s not the technology, I think we have brilliant scientists out there and we’ve got technology and if we funded it, I think we can do anything we damn well want to in the realm of science fiction, but it’s a paradigm shift we need... oh, I can’t invest money into this project when I don’t see a turnaround within three to six months. It’s just too short of a time, to get to space, to make a space colony. It maybe decades or hundreds of years or more until you “saw a profit” at least in money. Why are we thinking about money? Didn’t Star Trek say, okay in the future we won’t have money? We’re not thinking about profit as far as building up mankind, improving life for the pompous. No, we’re thinking about dollars and cents and a very, very near term profitability for a few men or people who’re going to put the money upfront. So we need the psychological paradigm shift more than we need to push technology because the technology is there if we just let it happen.

Speaker 4: I think we’re all in agreement that the economics play a big role. I think there are some scientific challenges. I don’t think the science is trivial to make a commercial product that could be broadly marketed and meet the kind of guidelines that a broadly marketed product would have to reach, but I think the biggest thing is not just the economics in terms of profitable dollars and cents but also filling a certain economic need. There has to be a niche for it and is it really improving our traditional transportation in a way that makes sense for most people to say, yeah, I’ve got to own this. And for that to exist it has to be really doing something that is a market improvement in your lifestyle and if all it does is just get you there in the same way by just flying instead of on road is it improving things. And if it is, then the economics may eventually work out, but I’d say for now it’s not really very feasible.

Jonathan Stars: One thing I think about is that it’d be nice to be able to just go out and fly, but the problem is we’re going to have to have some kind of a system, registry or flight path and so on and so forth, same thing as you do right now with airplanes. Hang on, that’s a very long drawn out process and I can’t imagine doing that, the convenience of getting in my car and going, I can make up my mind in a minute and I wouldn’t be able to do that until we move into a place where the vehicles, our regular cars are driving themselves. We’re starting to try that, and we can try an awful long time. Also, then to be able to fly themselves and know what all the other flying vehicles are doing, that’s when it becomes a logistical thing where you can’t just use it as quickly and easily as you can a car. So I think it may be a little while before even that takes shape. I’m going to move on to the next question, did you want to add anything else to that?

Speaker 6: Yeah, I’m just wondering if we’re being little too scientific for a science fiction convention because the company that creates a few flying cars, yeah they exist, but they are not in every driveway. But perhaps you are looking at the flying car in Back to the Future, which according to the movie will be around next year, in 2015 we had the conversion done and it’s the skyways that are packed with traffic because the flying circuits are safe and that’s the flying car we’re all talking about. We’re not talking about the real flying car that we the engineer scientists know is a real pain in the ass to create. We’re talking about the science fictional one. We want that one. And that one, I’m sorry, science fiction authors are not here to predict the future. We are here to give you a really cool concept of what it might

Speaker 2: I think I’m dragging this down from science fiction back into technology, so maybe we should take flight again.

Cindy A. Matthews: I had one question but I had read that if we are having private flying cars and not just military like the Marines on them and then maybe under the auspices of the FAA, they wouldn’t be able to fly above a certain altitude, right, and then we don’t have to have a flight plan when you are under a certain altitude, correct?

Multiple Speakers: _____.

Cindy A. Matthews: Under 18,000 feet in certain locations, so you know I am going to say the social aspect, yeah, the laws, the rules, you have to plan it instead of just flying to the supermarket two miles down the road or I am trying to go visit my daughter over in England, which is a completely different type of private flight I’d be taking, and we’d have to go higher but, yeah, those are issues.

Speaker 4: Yeah, actually to be a voice of dissension, I will be devil’s advocate here for the sake of conversation is when the first automobile came about, how many roads were there and did people necessarily stick to roads or did people have any sense from a social or societal point of view of how it’s all supposed to work and be organized. It kind of self-organized and kind of similar self-organizational process take place once there is an affordable family sized flying car or put cart before the horse. Is that

Speaker 2: Before that time

Speaker 4: And I think we’re right on that, is that

Speaker 6: No, the change may happen, our society has evolved to the point that when cars first came into existence, nobody thought to create all the regulations we need until after we needed those regulations. But we’ve become a much more risk averse society where now we have to regulate everything that might actually come into existence in a couple of years. There were ongoing debates on human cloning when human cloning was not yet feasible because we had to regulate and decide how we are going to treat these things and that’s one of the reasons I think that socially we don’t have flying cars. There are too many people who are scared of them, scared of what they represent without anything regulated ahead of time.

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Where are the Flying Cars? (Video; Part One of Two)

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Forget flying cars - this group can't even get a decent microphone.

    Couldn't someone have recorded this on a broken cellphone to improve the audio quality?

  • by Type44Q (1233630) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @03:21PM (#47665729)
    Obviously, the sleek, compact flying cars we're waiting for are sitting right alongside the compact gravity repulsion units and the ununpentium powercells...
    • This. The jetpack/flying car whining just needs to stop. Some problems are really hard, and the imagined solutions to some problems make no sense at all. Turns out moving along the surface of the earth is really easy, and (gasp!) we can get to pretty much everywhere we need to by doing so.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Can't you read? We're discussing economic, social, and political barriers. Laws of physics don't matter here, right?

        • Nonsense. If we all simply stopped believing in secular BS like "Science" and "The Laws of Physics" we'd already have flying cars, unobtainium and sharks with lasers on their foreheads.

      • All this does is raise more questions and more debate? Why do people want to fly? Is it that they equate air travel with faster travel? Is it because they imagine easier access with less infrastructure? Is it simply for the fun of it? Ps. The science fiction convention is the perfect place to ask these questions. It's a panel for fun.
      • by rioki (1328185)

        What?! There are "flying cars", it is a solved problem. The normal term is Helicopter, but if you wish can call it a Flying Car. Just because you can't afford one or the maintenance of one, does not mean it doesn't exist. The myth actually is that everybody will be able to afford a "flying car", which misses the point of how much energy is required to maintain flight.

  • "Space exploration and fusion skeptics like you are the just like the people who said we'd never have flying machines, cellphones, and televisions."

    "No, I'm like just the people who said we'd never have flying cars, home nuclear reactors, and robot nannies."

  • Not practical (Score:4, Informative)

    by loufoque (1400831) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @03:22PM (#47665753)

    We don't have flying cars because they wouldn't be practical outside of long travels, and for long travels traditional airplanes are more economical and the ability to not be dependent on a third party service matters less.

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @03:35PM (#47665863) Journal

      You clearly live in a flat place near an airport hub. Flying cars would be tremendously practical for most of the US, which are not near hubs. It's 40 miles to my parent's house, 100 if you drive. They happen to live two mountain ranges over and across a lake from me so the path to get there is rather circuitous. I'm 3-4 hours drive from 4 different large airports, but the only one within an hour has a horrible flight cancellation record, costs $100-200 more per trip than a hub, and to catch a flight that takes me to a hub I have to leave the house earlier than if I just drove straight to the hub.

      Sure, travel more than 200 miles or so is probably more economical on a commercial jet, and more than about 400-500 miles is probably the break point for convenience/cost combined. But outside the big cities, which comprise less than 2% of the land area of the US, there are lots of use cases for a flying car.

      Besides, a real flying car (not a roadable aircraft) should be able to reasonably navigate local traffic as well as airborne travel.

      It's arguable whether having five million flyers is a safe thing, but as for the utility - it's definitely there.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        You might think a plane would be nice, but cars have their advantages too. Being on land means you can handle bad weather much better in a car than in a plane. Also, having a mechanical breakdown is less dangerous in a car than in a plane. Cars can usually carry much more cargo in their car too. You can tow a trailer if you really want. Most personal planes have very little room for luggage, and don't allow for a lot of extra weight. Along the same lines, most personal planes don't have a lot of room for
      • by HappyHead (11389)

        It's arguable whether having five million flyers is a safe thing

        It's not even arguable - it's absolutely not a safe thing. The street I used to live on was littered with bits of cars that fell off, and then the owner didn't even bother going back to get. Hub caps, mirrors, door handles, mufflers, once a whole rear fender. Basic maintenance, or even "taking care not to run into things" is an alien concept to a lot of drivers, most of whom will be the first one to get angry and confrontational if you suggest that maybe they need to take better care of things.

        And th

        • Obv it's out of the question because of the outrageous amount of fuel that would be burned. But for the sake of the imagination...

          The technology wouldn't be ready until it was autonomous. Most people couldn't do the thinking in 3D necessary to fly one themselves, and be safe.

          They'd have to design flying cars to have the minimum chance of things falling off. So there'd be no equivalent of hub caps and fenders. And cars tend to have the mechanics on the underside reasonably exposed. I'd imagine a flying car b

        • by Twinbee (767046)
          That's okay - we can have a proper driving test, one which you don't necessarily pass first time!

          Also, each flying car can be repelled from each other flying car, using a 3D radar system. A sort of magnetic field where the closer you get, the stronger the repelling force. That alone would prevent catastrophic collision.
      • They happen to live two mountain ranges over and across a lake from me so the path to get there is rather circuitous.

        Bet it's beautiful though. And with autonomous cars on the way, you can enjoy that view. Or (when they are good enough to really trust) you can read or watch a video.

        Forget the flying car thing. It's not just safety issues, it's a really bad use of dwindling supplies of fossil fuel.

        • Forget the flying car thing. It's not just safety issues, it's a really bad use of dwindling supplies of fossil fuel.

          Which is why it will be powered by a small nuclear reactor!

          • The problem is the weight of the reactor especially if the car needs to carry live humans inside. They had enough trouble with nuclear propulsion in the atmosphere with Project Pluto in the 1960s. The Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion in the 1950s tried to do this for bombers but even there the weight was an issue.

            • No, we just need to rethink our concept of what a 'live' human means. In the future, it can mean a human who makes a geiger counter jump off the table.

              Really, though, the constraint ennvelopes for cars and planes is completely opposite, one from the other. What that means is that a flying car will perform neither job well, which means that even when (not if) invented, it won't sell. And it'll burn up those fossil fuels.

              Cars have to be narrow. Planes have to be wide, for stability and lift. Cars have to be s

      • by loufoque (1400831)

        I think you're a minority.
        Most people live fairly close to cities.

      • But outside the big cities, which comprise less than 2% of the land area of the US, there are lots of use cases for a flying car.

        If there are "lots of use cases", why can't you provide any? The energy cost of flying to your parent's house by air far exceeds that of driving. And unless you fly regularly (more than once a month), there's little economic sense in purchasing maintaining an expensive flying car in exchange for a modest gain in convenience in travel to either your parent's place or an airport.

        • I own a pickup truck, though I don't use it more than once or twice a month. Pretty low usage (and shitty gas mileage) for a vehicle worth $30-40,000. It would be cheaper to just pay to have everything delivered, or rent a truck when I need one. But the convenience of having it outweighs the cost. The same could be said of a sports car, a boat, am RV, or even a light aircraft.

          Why is it you think that the cost of use and maintenance really matters? If that were the case we'd all drive small 2 or 4 door seda

      • by Kohath (38547)

        Light rain and wind = thousands dead in flying car crashes

      • by bware (148533)

        But outside the big cities, which comprise less than 2% of the land area of the US, there are lots of use cases for a flying car.

        Unfortunately for flying car manufacturers, big cities are where most of the population lives, and where most of the wealth is concentrated. If most people in the US can't use them, and the rest can't afford them, market forces work against a flying car being affordable.

  • Screw the cars (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nightsky30 (3348843) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @03:26PM (#47665777)
    I want my hoverboard!
  • by cyberchondriac (456626) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @03:29PM (#47665811) Journal
    They're a long, long, looong way off. Let's focus on more realistic and practical things, like self making beds and toilets that put the seat down for women automatically. Now that would be progress.
    • I'd prefer a toilet seat that cleans itself after I piss all over it. :p
    • by jon3k (691256)
      You mean one that puts itself up after, right?
      • Absolutely.
        Actually, it was in jest. I think, technically, it's more work for a guy to fight gravity putting a seat up to piss, than it is for a gal to work with gravity and put the seat down. I honestly don't see why it's supposed to be strictly the man's responsibility, according to some. Though on principle, I myself put the seat and cover down just because, I dunno.. appearances, hygiene, whatever, though my wife has never actually complained if I forgot and left it up.
    • There are already toilets that put the seat down already. They're readily available in Japan and probably available at a dealer where ever you might be.

  • How do you stop them quickly without too sudden a stop, like nose first in the ground, or into the next flying car? To me this seems like the biggest issue. Air vehicles are too hard to control compared to a ground vehicle using friction between the control surfaces. Maneuvering ise too complex for most people. Granted we can wait till someone extrapolates self driving cares into 3 dimensions and let them fly themselves. But that is a technological issue that we haven't got to quite yet. Maybe it won't hap
    • Self flying cars should be easier than self driving cars - heck, we already have them in commercial use. The user space is far larger and the location tolerance is much looser than driving on a road.

      And if it's a flying CAR you can land outside of densely traveled/populated areas and drive to your final destination (say, Manhattan or LA).

  • Flying cars are right in the same bin as:

    (1) Colonization/living on other planets
    (2) Uploading brains from bodies to computers
    (3) War via robots resulting to no human deaths
    (4) Technology giving the masses a life of leisure

    Classic geek myths.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      (4) Technology giving the masses a life of leisure

      It exists. It's called "unemployed and on unemployment". It seems we'll have to seriously consider it "normal" since it does not look like automation and offshoring are shrinking, and no major new source of employment is replacing it.

      The right-wing will balk loudly, though, about "freeloaders". But they balk at ALL change; it's the very definition of "conservative" such that I am not being insulting here (unless reading the dictionary is offensive to some).

  • I want something that can fly but still be limited to a one dimensional track such that only forward and reverse are the only directions allowed. This way I can know that my kids are not deviating from the route to and from school, but still be in the air.
    • That already exists. It's called a roller coaster. I've wanted my city to replace the trams and buses with roller coasters for years.
      • That's close, but roller coasters don't fly. They still rely on a connected physical track for support. I want a flying train that rides on a virtual track. I want the immense complexity of precision flight combined with the harshly inconvenient restrictions of railway travel.
  • by Jack9 (11421) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @03:55PM (#47666065)

    We have flying cars, they are called helicopters. They are dangerous and appear (to the public) to be notoriously hard to fly...partly because people keep using them as flying cars/platforms.

    • A flying car has to supplant the automobile as the primary mode of transportation in America in order to fufill the hopes made 50 years ago. The idea of a "flying car" is the same as the "horseless buggy" or the "electric car". Those were vehicles that replaced the "horse" or "gas car." (electric car not quite there yet) Currently I would say the electric car does not exist in the Sci-Fi sense. Instead we currently have electric sports cars and electric luxury cars. But not the electric car as promised by S
  • It's obviously because Dante wouldn't let some insane German scientist diddle his pennie..

    • by captjc (453680)

      ...and his friends, after hacking Dante's foot off.

      Some people just can't throw their hat over the wall for the good of mankind.

  • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @03:59PM (#47666091) Homepage

    I think this is tied somewhat to the issue of the issue of self-driving cars. Part of the problem with flying cars is the question of, who do we trust to fly them? What's the process of licensing people to drive/pilot these things? Do we trust people not to fly over protected airspace? Do we trust people not to fly into buildings? Along with everything else, driving/piloting a vehicle designed both for driving and flying might very well be more complicated than learning to drive and learning to fly combined.

    However, if you can have self-driving cars, and you can make a self-flying driving car (including take-off and landing), then you could have the whole thing controlled by a computer guided system, adhering to restrictions to traffic and air traffic. Along with everything else, you could have restrictions that say, "When you're in NYC, the car knows that it needs to drive because airspace is restricted. Once you drive X miles outside the city, you can take to the air along certain restricted routes, following certain procedures." All of that could be controlled with computers, disallowing various kinds of abuses.

    Of course, that assumes that we have sufficient systems for safe autonomous driving/flight. It also assumes that everything is coded well enough to prevent people from hacking the car to allow them to break the rules. It also assumed that people will be ok with being restricted and tracked. Finally, it assumes that, when you've put all these restrictions in place, you haven't made the idea so un-fun that people don't want a flying car anymore.

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      For more populated areas, computer control would probably be necessary. Would it be perfect? No, but it only has to be comparable to road cars in terms safety. People may even accept a bit more general risk to have them.

      If we keep worrying about hackers, we won't progress. The flying cars may need a "panic mode" that basically lets them hover until any navigation-related problem is resolved, perhaps gradually descending to the ground to a spot controlled by the driver (if VTOL, such as Puffin). This sub-sys

  • Fuck the flying cars, we have a tough time enough just getting electric cars on the road...

    Reminded me of George Carlin...

    "We're gonna go to Mars. And then of course we're gonna colonize deep space. With our microwave hot dogs and plastic vomit, fake dog shit and cinnamon dental floss, lemon-scented toilet paper and sneakers with lights in the heels. And all these other impressive things we've done down here. But let me ask you this: what are we gonna tell the intergalactic council of ministers the fi
  • by Cro Magnon (467622) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:07PM (#47666161) Homepage Journal

    The reason I'd want a flying car is so I could avoid all the idiots by flying over them. It wouldn't be so much fun when the idiots have them and are flying around while talking on their phones! Yikes!!

  • The only "flying cars" possible today are airplane-automobile hybrids that can get neither the driving nor the flying right. In the 50's and 60's the promise of science seemed unlimited, discoveries that would lead to a entire new method of flying, not relying on lift and drag, seemed not only possible but just around the corner. 50+ years later we still don't have a quantum theory of gravity and the mystery has only deepened.
  • > in Detroit

    Say what now?

    Good job promoting it.

  • No flying cars.

    But we do have videos about how there are no flying cars on slashdot. That's worth something. Well, for very small values of "something", anyway.

  • Once a car gets wings it usually ceases to be a car and becomes an airplane.

  • by Jodka (520060) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @04:32PM (#47666393)

    Six reasons we do not have flying cars:

    1. Unforgivingness: Run out of gas, stall, fail to perform scheduled maintenance? You plummet and die. Road vehicles are more forgiving of errors and faults.
    2. Regulation: There is an overwhelming regulatory burden imposed by the FAA. This restricts R&D, commercialization and ownership.
    3. Expertise: Piloting requires specialized skills and extensive training.
    4. Expense: Flying vehicles are expensive.
    5. Infrastructure: The air traffic control system can not handle ubiquitous flying vehicles. Take-off and landing zones are not ubiquitous. For short distances, it is inefficient to to the airport to fly to the next airport to drive to where you are going, Why not just drive to where you are going to start with? For longer distances, drive to the airport and take a plane. The flying car only makes sense if we put airports everywhere. Yes, VTOL would mitigate this.
    6. Inherent inefficiency: Hauling your car around with you everywhere you fly? Carrying your airplane with you everywhere you drive? A combination car/plane of the future makes about as much sense as traveling with your car on a commercial passenger flight today.

    You are stuck with #6; Flying cars might just be an inherently stupid idea. Other barriers can be overcome with technology and mass commercialization except for the FAA regulatory burden and restrictions.

    Ubiquitous personal air transport makes more sense for short to medium distances if you do not try to make combination, flyable/roadable vehicle. As-the-crow-flies routes are way more efficient than road networks and with automated navigation and automated air-traffic control there would be no traffic jams in 3 dimensions. Automated VTOL would largely obviate road travel.

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Of course, point 2 should to a large degree prevent point 1; you want to fly your shit in the USA, you have a maintenance logbook that is kept up to date and can be produced whenever your local FAA rep comes 'round asking for it. Of course, that's one of the reasons for point 4. You maintain your engines in part based on how many times they've been started. Due to this, it effectively costs my local dropzone $100 just to turn their plane on.

      We do get a story every so often, of someone forgetting to put ga

    • Flying vehicles are expensive: to build, to operate, and to maintain. Probably close to an order of magnitude for each, though the last may be close to two magnitudes.

      Cost per pound of cargo in an airborne vehicle is huge. Here's an example: the HondaJet runs around $5m. A comparable Honda Odyssy is $35k.

      Flying is a significantly more energy-intensive operation than rolling along the surface. A cheap prop plane like a Cessna has an airspeed around 100mph, and gets 20mpg. The equivalent super-cheap su

  • Had the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, or Nicola Tesla fallen to something like "How to live United" propaganda [unitedway.org] and gone to "help the poor", how much longer would it have taken for the affordable air-travel, mass-produced cars, and the numerous other wonders [activistpost.com] to appear?

    Especially, if they traveled to the Third World and caught something nasty?

    Thankfully, such "sacrifice" was not very popular 100 years ago. Unfortunately, it seems to be all the rage nowadays...

  • 1 The ability to park a car, high in the air, and not have it move a millimeter until desired and to consume no energy in that state.
    2 the ability to fly at zero speed and maintain position and consume no energy
    3 the ability to control the position and velocity of any flying car with precision, so you could have them fly in rows in different directions in the equivalent of lanes in the sky - OR, the ability to control the exact position and speed of a car, all the way down to parked in the air.
    4 power used

  • The FAA blocks them (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    First, there are all the regulations governing development of any new production aircraft; It currently cost approx $50 million to get a small aircraft through the cert process. If a small company thinks it will sell 1000 of its shiny new flying cars it will have to add $50K to the pricetag of each just to cover these costs.

    Second, there are all the regulations governing pilots; Getting a pilot's license costs thousands of dollars and takes many people over a year but that license can be taken away from y

    • The FAA regulations are the biggest factor.

      The next is liability litigation. Try to run a company when one suit from one crash (even if it's not your fault) might drain your entire investment and bankrupt you. Try to get insurance in the same situation.

      Either alone might make it hard. Both together have essentially frozen designs for private aircraft for over half a century and nearly destroyed civil aviation.

  • I'm a big Quad Copter fan myself, and I can tell you that these are SUPER safe to fly today, WAY safer than ANY helicopter or airplane.

    Equipped with stabilizing 6 axis sensor and hefty gyros, combined with GPS technology, these things are a WALK in the park to fly. Check this video out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] . As you can see, these things are stable as they can get. Imagine a REAL LIFE size of the same thing, no sweat at all, the problem is elsewhere.

    We can have these life-size quadcopters
    • by Deadstick (535032)

      and much more that I don't even know anything about

      ...including the problems of scale in aircraft design.

  • by Marrow (195242)

    Flying Cars. Uber. Flying Cars. UBER! Hmm....

  • Most humans can barely control automobiles that are limited to TWO dimensions.
    And we still have millions of accidents and tens of thousands of fatalities every year.
    Add a vertical dimension and watch statistics skyrocket (no pun intended).

  • Flying cars are expensive because just keeping them statically up requires pushing a huge amount of stuff downward to overcome gravity. Action reaction.

    UFO have been observed to statically hover without pushing a lot of stuff downward. They have also been observed to accelerate at huge rates, without pushing a lot of stuff in the opposite direction. The UFOs in short, have a space drive.

    Our current science has no idea how to produce a space drive. That is, accelerate without moving a lot of stuff in th

  • ... speeds without hilarity ensuing. They already have gravity HELPING them stick to the ground, with giant bright lines and concrete barriers and street lights and signs everywhere reminding them not to be jackasses. And still 30,000 people die this way in the US alone every year. What on earth makes anyone think millions of people will be better trying to do this in mid-air at twice the speed with no barriers, lines, lights or sticky-safe gravity? "But air travel is much safer" - sure, with two highly
    • by steveg (55825)

      It's the miles of separation that's the biggest issue. If I'm in the air and I see another aircraft a mile away I think I've cut it pretty close.

      The best pilot in the world flying as close to me as I routinely experience in ground traffic would scare the bejeezus out of me. Yeah, the Blue Angels can do it, but even they don't spend a lot of time going in opposite directions at those distances.

  • by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday August 13, 2014 @09:18PM (#47668103)

    Flying cards are energetically stupid, safety-wise stupid and traffic-capacity-wise stupid. That means they may not ever happen except for meaningless stunts. Those that want them are like little children crying "I want! I want! I want!" all over without realizing that this physical reality has limits. Really pathetic.

  • They're called ultralights. Same price range (well, sorta, you may have to double or triple the tag), same kind of performance and mileage.

  • For the use case with the mountain and the lake in the way of the car: Why no use a plane? Lots of roads a wide enough for a real plane. I think with self driving cars and mandatory apps for the rest it should allow to dynamically clear roads of cars. The the pilot of the plane pays the drivers of the cars some compensation and: Win-Win. The other use case is traffic jam or an obstacle on the road. For this the cars only need to hop to the next free road. They need not to be efficient.
  • They are too expensive for average people. AND They have severe limitations that make them not practical.

    There are basically two versions I have seen: A) Vertical take off devices that are basically the equivalent of helicopters. In fact, you might consider a Helicopter to BE a flying car, if you are rich enough to own one. But there are smaller things that don't look like helicopters and can easily fit in a typical driveway. Their practical limitations are: 1) expense 2) limited range, 3) fuel is

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