Flying Cars Are Maybe Almost Here

The road has been tough for the flying cars our grandfathers dreamed of, mostly because of regulatory issues. The technology to build them has been around for decades, and a few flying cars were even built in the middle of the last century, but the logistics of licensing, controlling air traffic, and maintaining safety has kept them from entering the mainstream. Lately, however, there’s been new hope in the field, thanks to the electronic transportation infrastructure we have in the Internet age (communications, GPS, intelligent automation) and also thanks to some regulatory hurdles that the FAA cleared in 2007.

A flying car built in 1949, the Taylor Aerocar III


Two companies have recently tested flying cars that could theoretically be sold to the public. One is an American company called Terrafugia that makes a car-plane which can drive around on roads with its wings folded, then take off from runways. The other is a Dutch company called PAL-V (Personal Air and Land Vehicle) that makes a helicopter-car, which again can drive around on roads with its rotor folded, then take off like a helicopter. Note that neither of them can smoothly go from driving to flying, but rather they’re vehicles that can be fairly easily converted from land to air travel and vice-versa.

The Terrafugia plane-car will cost about 280k$, and the PAL-V one will probably be up there also. So even if all the ducks line up vis-à-vis government regulations, they may still flop in the market. But, if everything goes well, maybe by 2050 flying cars won’t be that uncommon. Videos of both are below.

From The Christian Science Monitor, via NPR

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