Reuvain had an important meeting early that morning and turned on the traffic report on the radio. “Road repairs are still going on and the highway is backed up for miles,” the reporter said. Reuvain thought for a moment and then turned to his wife, “I’ll have to take the flying car this morning,” he told her. “You use the one in the driveway.”
This scenario has not happened – yet. But in the relatively near future, this technology will become a reality and repeated countless times. Several auto firms have actually announced when their craft will go on sale. A few are already selling them.
Among the manufacturers are Volocopter, Mood SureFly, Opened BlackFly, and Ehang, Flying Car and Carplane – not exactly household names. But others are very well-known, like Uber, Toyota, Tesla, Porsche, Hyundai, Aston Martin, and Rolls Royce, to name a few. The surprisingly large number of companies racing to get into this business is proof of the humongous potential they anticipate.
So far, the US and Japan are the industry leaders, but Australia, France, India, Slovakia, Brazil, and even Israel are getting into the act.
The Mother Of Invention
It’s easy to understand why so many companies are getting involved. For one, there is a real need for a new means of transportation. Roads and bridges are falling apart, and traffic jams are a recurring nightmare. And mass transit is not reliable. Subways and buses don’t run on time, are dirty, dangerous, and despite riders wearing masks, do not eliminate concerns about social distancing. There are additional potential uses too, such as providing emergency medical assistance and fighting crime.
Flying cars appear to be perfect for these tasks. They also offer the user privacy while allowing the option of letting him or her take a relative or friend along for a ride. They will be speedy, exciting, and eliminate much of the wasted time and frustration generated by driving conventional cars. Development of flying cars began in 2014.
There is no shortage of prototypes. Some resemble sports cars and others helicopters, but all will look futuristic. In some of these, the wings will unfold and the tires retract while the vehicle accelerates down a runway. In others, the car will utilize VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) technology and won’t need a runway.
Flying cars are generating lots of interest, mostly from consumers who need one but also from others who simply want to be the first on the block to show off a new toy.
But these toys will come with a hefty price tag. AeroMobil’s two-seat car, for example, lists for $1.6 million; Moller Skycar is selling a four-seater for $3.5 million.
Out Of A Clear Blue Sky
If all of the companies developing flying cars sell their wares, the skies over our cities will become very crowded. Uber wants to build on its mainstream business by providing a flying taxi service and anticipates 2023 as the starting date. These taxis “will take off and land from massive sky ports scattered around various areas of cities,” reports Digital Trend. “And they won’t need a runway.”
Uber’s taxis will have a range of 60 miles, fly up to 150 MPH, and be able to carry one pilot and four passengers. Uber is so confident about demand that the company has hired top architects to design structures to accommodate the 1,000 landings per hour it anticipates. The company will begin testing this technology in Dallas, LA and Dubai possibly as soon as the end of 2020. Hyundai will manufacture the taxis.
Other flying cars boast different features and will be used for different purposes. Last year, Slovakia’s AeroMobil completed a fourth prototype of what it calls a “super (flying) car with super powers.” It will have retractable wheels and wings that will enable it to take off from a runway like a plane and then transform itself back into a car and drive on a highway.
Airbus’s Project Vahana completed its first successful flight test in 2018 and while not spectacular - it rose just 16 feet and stayed in the air for 53 seconds - the test was successful and functioned entirely on autopilot. Since then, Vahana has had at least 50 additional test flights. Airbus may start selling this vehicle in the very near future.
Rolls-Royce’s said it will start selling its vertical take-off car in the early 2020s. Tesla’s Elon Musk said his company is developing a version of the Tesla Roadster that will fly with SpaceX technology. Terrafugia’s Transition TF-X is billed as the world’s first flying car that can turn into a plane in less than a minute and race ahead up to 100 mph; the TF-X will go on sale in the US next month. Terrafugia is owned by Volvo. GM said it would “be exploring options” in the aerial taxi market.
And Sky Drive by Cartivator was going to use a flying car to ignite the torch at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan, but that plan was shelved because of the pandemic; Toyota is a partner in the venture.
Flying cars are not getting the attention they deserve because the virus is still spreading in many areas of the US and other countries. But they are on the way, and when they arrive, will usher in a new era in the auto industry. They will also create many jobs, investment opportunities, ease traffic and transit woes, and make day-to-day life better and more exciting for people around the world. At long last, there’s business news to look forward to.