What Needs to Happen Before Any of Us Can “Drive” Flying Cars
The Jetsons is an animated classic that’ll forever live in our hearts. But the retrofuturistic series about a family living in a high-altitude utopia gave us an idea of tomorrow that should remain a work of fiction – at least until we find ways to fix the flaws. If you live in a traffic-congested city, you might think a future with flying cars may one day solve your problems. Wrong! It’s a nice thought to entertain, but cars that speed through the skies would probably cause more problems than they would solve.
Just for the record, flying cars exist already
First off, make no mistake about the reality of flying cars – they already exist. Companies such as AeroMobil, Moller International and Pal-V are on track to build and sell their vehicles in the near future. Most notably, Terrafugia, an American startup founded by MIT grads, claims their “Transition” car will enter its production phase in 2017. In fact, the FAA gave the company the go-ahead to test their TF-X model, a semi-autonomous flying car (it can do a lot of its own piloting) the company says it won’t require too much training to operate. Another auto giant (drum roll), is showing interest in flying cars – Toyota. Recent reports point out to the company filing patents for what it calls a “stackable wing for an aerocar.”
Elon Musk Shares His Views About Flying Cars
Mr. Musk seems to be the world’s consultant when it comes to technology and transportation right, a fitting position since he’s the genius behind Tesla. So what does he think about flying cars? He doesn’t believe they’ll happen. Back in 2014, Musk said, “If the sky was full of cars flying all over the place, it would affect how things look. It would affect the skyline. And it would be noisier and there would be a greater probability of something falling on your head. Those are not good things.” That’s not to say his views cancel out the prospect of seeing a flying car one day, but they do highlight some important issues we will discuss in this article. For us to see flying cars in action, many things need to happen.
Teach people to fly
If we’re to get technical, flying cars are aircraft. That means many traditional driving techniques such as defensive driving will differ in the sky and in effect, drivers will have to learn how to fly (excuse the rhymes). After all, turning around a hairpin bend isn’t the same thing as making a sharp aerial turn. And the skills needed to drive uphill don’t match those required for taking off. So unless people are willing or able to develop some serious piloting skills, flying cars will turn into killing machines. Additionally, we can only imagine that the dashboards, instruments and layout inside of a flying car won’t look the same as a regular car, meaning drivers won’t be able to just up in their cars and go.
Learn fuse cars with planes
The existence of the flying car is somewhat of an oxymoron. Here’s why: cars and planes rely on a different set of engineering and physics to get in motion. Cars need weight on both their front and back wheels to allow for safe turning. Planes, however, need more weight on the back wheels for safe landing and takeoff. There are differences in their engines as well. Car engines need water for cooling, but that adds weight which makes flying difficult. Planes rely on air cooled systems for the engine, but that makes them incapable of sitting in traffic without overheating. Until engineers find a way to make a system that allows for both plane and automotive function, flying cars will stay grounded.
Build the “highways” needed for them
Do you think the roads are bad in your city? Well, driving in the sky as is wouldn’t benefit anyone – the commute would actually be worse. One of the biggest reasons why flying cars aren’t feasible right now comes from a lack of infrastructure to regulate traffic. Keeping the skies orderly would require a similar system used for commercial planes. You’d need air traffic control, flight paths (the aerial equivalent of a road), and places to land and takeoff, all of which would be complicated by skyscrapers and a lack of space in cities. But we’d have to do it somehow if we want cars in the air.
Make them quiet
On average, the noise generated by highway traffic sits around the 70 – 80 decibels (dB), a measurement that’s just under the harmful range (85 dB+). A jet engine produces a whopping 140 decibels, which would certainly ruin your hearing if you were repeatedly exposed. Now picture this – in addition to road traffic, you’ve got jets taking off, trains hurtling on tracks, jackhammers grinding away and now – a floating stream of flying cars above you. We’re talking about major auditory overload. This could prove itself not only as a nuisance, but also a health hazard especially to those living in urban settings. So noisy engines on flying cars are a no-go. Currently, there doesn’t seem to be any way around this.
Make them worth the cost
Finally, the all-encompassing reason why flying cars won’t currently work boils down to dollars. First of all, the price of these cars rival (and even exceed) the costs of our favourite dream cars. For example, Terrafugia’s Transition car comes with a $279,000 price tag. If you can handle that cost, then you could probably buy yourself a fancy luxury ride, such as Bentley, Porsche or Ferrari. But the price of flying cars in our world is beyond the vehicles themselves. Setting up the infrastructure needed to guide drivers (or shall we say pilots) safely through the air would lend itself to astronomical costs. For now, it’s not practical to make the flying car a mainstream form of transportation. There’s already enough to pay for on the ground.
Opinions About Flying Cars
It’s safe to say that just about everyone has thought about a world with flying cars. With that said, opinions do vary. There are those who are excited about the prospect of flying to work, while others think that we’re simply not ready to have cars lined up above us yet. In fact, one survey revealed the attitude of many regarding the advent of flying cars.
As you can see, the majority of those surveyed lean to the side of not believing in our ability to have a flying car network. The biggest reason for this relates to infrastructure and safety challenges.
Are We There Yet? Not Quite
Looking back at shows like The Jetsons and flicks like Blade Runner, both of which feature flying cars, it’s clear to see that people have had a fascination with them for years. In fact, this obsession goes back several centuries. Whether we can or can’t build these cars isn’t the main problem – there are companies doing it. But their practicality remains in question. There may be a time in the not-so-near future when we’ll have the systems needed to support flying cars. For now though, we’ll most likely see them stay as caged experiments or fictional props.