Flying cars – something we want or supposed to want?
Back in the 90s, everyone wondered what the new millennium would look like. One of the most awaited novelties was and still is a flying car. Many of us have seen this invention in works of fiction, including the famous Back to the Future series. Believing the movies, the sky in 2015 was supposed to be crowded with flying cars. Yet, it is 2017 and the question remains – where is my flying car?
From idea to action
If you think that a flying car is a modern day phenomenon, you are wrong. Even before the Wright brothers’ first airplane, William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow introduced and patented their so-called flying car – Aerial Steam Carriage – 1841. However, they failed to create a functional version of their monoplane, leaving the flying car’s materialization up to others’ hands.
According to Popular Mechanics, 1923 was the year that marked the appearance of true predecessors of flying cars – autogyros. In that year, Harold F. Pitcairn’s PCA-2, the first rotary-wing aircraft to achieve type certification in the United States, was sold on the mass market. Then came 1937 and with it the Waterman Arrowbile – a tailless, two-seat, single-engine, pusher configuration roadable aircraft. Although the Aerobile, as it was renamed later, flew safely, only five of them were produced.
After ten years, in 1947, one extremely literally visualized flying car prototype – the Convair Model 118 ConvAirCar – completed its test fly. Even though the first demonstration ended abruptly due to a low-fuel incident that destroyed the car, the second prototype was rebuilt from the damaged aircraft. However, after initial failure, little enthusiasm remained for the project and the program ended shortly after.
Following several more creations of experimental flying cars, one notable design was Henry Smolinski’s Mizar, made by mating the rear end of a Cessna Skymaster with a Ford Pinto, but it disintegrated during test flights killing Smolinski and the pilot.
So there you have it – a whole bunch of flying car concepts, and we probably haven’t covered even half of them! If there were so many attempts back in the day, there should be more viable flying car prototypes today, right?
Check your savings account, flying cars are here!
From NASA to Airbus, Terrafugia, AeroMobil and so on – everybody is trying to be the first recognized for making the century-old dream come true. Some of the companies are even taking reservations, but is it still soon too early to open your wallet?
Terrafugia, one of the innovators, has been developing its light sport, roadable airplane – the Transition – since 2006, and currently is “finalizing production vehicle design and compliance testing in preparation for vehicle deliveries within the next three years,” as stated on the company’s official website. The cost per unit of their model starts around $279,000. Cheaper than the Lamborghini Aventador, for sure.
Then what would you say about $600,000 worth of vehicle? “Be among the very first in history to own a flying car,” states the Dutch PAL-V. Their two flying car models – Liberty Pioneer Edition and Liberty Sport – are also available for reservations. The Pioneer Edition, which is expected to be delivered in 2018, will mark the launching of the company’s products. They say that after selling only 90 units of this edition’s cars, the deliveries of the other model – Liberty Sport (starting at $400,000 – now we’re talking, right?) – will be accessible.
AeroMobil is one more heavily recognizable company for those familiar with the tendencies of today’s flying cars. Their upgraded prototype – AeroMobil 3.0 – will be available for preorder before the end of 2017 (yeah, that’s this year). Hence, if every company states readiness to produce their flying car models in the upcoming years, what does that say about transportation system’s readiness in welcoming them?
I’ve bought a flying car, now what?
Looking into the reservation numbers and the people’s interest in acquiring flying cars, news about the first happy customer is just a matter of time. And after all the catchy headlines about the first person to own a flying car become forgotten, many unanswered questions will remain. One of the biggest questions might be – how to use the flying car. One would think it’s simple as that – you sit down and ride, and you take off and fly on a whim. Not that simple, dreamers, not that simple.
First and probably the most important issue – one would require a pilot certificate along with a driver’s license for the flying car. Thus, the person who purchases the flying car will have to attend some sort of flying school and acquire new license certificate. Think of how many people would fail to deal with that. An even more curious thought, what if a person purchases the car before obtaining the license?
Second crucial matter – airspace allowance. Imagine that you buy the flying car in the USA or the EU and the governments wouldn’t allow operating your personal flying vehicle in their sky. Well, that would be absurd too but, actually, quite possible. Airspace in big countries is already crowded and the introduction of more transportation models would increase the danger of chaos up there, not to mention that it would require new rules, transportation system’s reconstructions and traffic-control solutions.
Before writing a letter to the government, one should first answer one simple question. Do people actually want flying cars?
Safety first, fun later
In April 2017, the University of Michigan Sustainable Worldwide Transportation released “A Survey of Public Opinion about Flying Cars.” The online survey asked a variety of questions investigating the likely benefits, major concerns, preferred source of energy, desirable minimum range, amount of flight-training required, takeoff and landing requirements, seating capacity, affordability, and overall interest in operating or using such vehicles. There were 508 responses from adults in the United States and the findings are not that big of a surprise.
Somewhat 75% of respondents stated that shorter travel time would be the main reason for choosing a flying car instead of regular one. This reason falls into the first place of benefits, following fewer crashes, better fuel economy or lower emissions. All that sounds promising (except the “fewer crashes” thing – that is disputable) but what do people fear?
Well, that’s obvious, isn’t it? Crashing in the sky would not be the same as crashing on the ground –. That’s why nearly 80% of the survey respondents said that it is "extremely important” or “very important” for a flying car to have a parachute. Looking into most of the suggested models, they all have either parachute or gyroplane rotor (implemented in PAL-V’s flying car) to land safely.
Overall, the survey generalized the same notion that has been hovering in our minds while thinking about the flying car’s possibilities – it would be best for all of us that flying cars would be fully autonomous and fly by their selves.
Concluding everything that has been said, the answer to the initial question (where are these flying cars and do we want them) is – they’re around the corner, and yes, we truly do want them. The other ground-shaking question – when majority of people will be able to afford one – is yet another one, and might require another article, so it’s up for you to decide.
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