Want to avoid rush hour traffic? Try taking to the sky. With flying cars in development, an air-bound approach to fighting traffic could be possible sooner than you might think. A number of start-ups and top car manufacturers are working on technology that would make flying cars a reality.
Pilot License Required?
Flying cars are often seen in fictional depictions of the future, yet we are now closer to putting them into the skies than ever before. A number of companies are working on prototypes in many different forms. Though technically cars, some of the top development companies’ products require that drivers have a a pilot license and a runway to take off and land.
Dutch-based start-up PAL-V recently announced that is it accepting $10,000 deposits for its two-seat Liberty flying car, which has a base price of $400,000, as is Slovakia company AeroMobil, though its machines will cost around $1million and won’t be ready for at least three years. Both vehicles would require a pilot license.
Other companies are developing flying cars that don’t need a landing strip; Massachusetts-based Terrafugia has developed its XF-T that uses VTOL technology to take off and land vertically, meaning it doesn’t require a pilot’s license. The vehicle looks like a car and has wings that fold up on the sides.
Big companies are also getting on board. Uber, which is also developing self-driving cars, has plans for a world where users can call a car to arrive by air and is hosting a conference about the topic this week. The government of Dubai is working with a Chinese firm to start running autonomous flying taxis in the city by this July.
Google co-founder Larry Page has invested in two flying car companies, ZeeAero and Kitty Hawk, which is trying to be first out of the gate with a flying car in 2018 and already has a prototype of an open-air one-seated flying vehicle. Although the company hasn’t set a price for the vehicle yet, it will soon begin offering potential customers a chance to pay to sign up for a discount when it is released.
A recent test flight successfully took the vehicle on a five-minute flight above Clear Lake, California at heights about 15 feet above the water. The final product will look quite different than the prototype and will be quieter, making it easier and more desirable to operate.
Although a number of companies seem to be making great progress on flying cars, many industry experts are warning people to reign in their excitement because the actual cars won’t be available any time soon. Regulators have taken a long time to monitor autonomous cars and come up with standardized safety standards, and taking things to the sky could add another level of delay and confusion.
The initial agreements between the Federal Aviation Administration is that pilots would be the first people to drive flying cars. The FAA is currently taking a “flexible, risk-based approach” to evaluating flying car technology, and many companies are encouraging developers and regulators to work together.
There’s also the issue of people actually wanting to travel in a flying car. For so long, the idea has only been seen in futuristic movies. Now that it is on the horizon, however, people have to come to terms with the safety concerns and consider if they would really turn to a flying car as a realistic mode of transportation.
A recent survey from the University of Michigan found that although 75% of people said they are interested in the technology because of shorter travel times, 62% said they were “very concerned” about the safety of flying cars, especially when traveling at night or during poor weather.
Technology seems to be on the cusp of flying cars; the question now turns to when, rather than if, it will happen.