In the cartoon “The Jetsons”, getting around by flying cars was the norm. This futuristic depiction of transportation seemed pretty far advanced at the time. But did you know the Jetsons cartoon took place in the year 2062? That’s not too far into the future from today. So, it’s worth asking the question, just how far are we from seeing flying cars in everyday life? Is this a realistic picture for the future of transportation? Depending who you ask, you might get conflicting answers to your question.
The concept of flying cars becoming a reality dates back at least a decade. Several companies have been investing millions into their development and touting their debut. But each passing year, expectations go unmet without any evidence of change. This seems to be changing, however, as the number of companies investing in various types of flying vehicles. In addition to technological advances, new designs are being pursued that are truly revolutionary. As far as these investors are concerned, flying cars will be the future of transportation sooner rather than later.
Conceptualizing a World with Flying Cars
Having flying cars as a means of transportation is more than simply exciting. There are many real advantages to having this as a means of primary travel. For example, air travel from a healthcare perspective could provide better emergency care to individuals when needed. Flying cars could also better connect remote areas to urban ones. And with trends currently favoring working from home, this mode of daily transportation could expand options for residence. The ability to access new areas quickly and efficiently would invite all kinds of new opportunities.
At the same time, having flying cars as the future of transportation has some infrastructure challenges. If everyone plans to be flying around in their own vehicles, air traffic rules have to be developed. For planes currently, this is tightly controlled and requires active monitoring. In addition, fueling stations, insurance policies, and parking regulations would also need to be addressed. At least at the current time, none of these issues have been well addressed. Naturally, this would be a big part in making this future of transportation a reality.
“We want to realize a society where flying cars are an accessible and convenient means of transportation in the skies and people are able to experience a safe, secure, and comfortable new way of life.” – Tomohiro Fukuzawa, CEO, Sky Drive Inc.
New Developments in Flying Cars
In the last few years, a number of innovative companies have been aggressively pursuing the development of flying cars. In essence, companies have been approaching designs from two major perspectives. One envisions flying cars as more like a small plane with fold-out wings and a steering wheel. These designs still require an area for take-off and landing. However, more recent designs have embraced a drone-like, quadcopter configuration. These models do not drive like cars but instead lift and land in a vertical fashion like a drone. Both have both appealing and limiting factors, however, neither are quite advanced enough for everyday use.
One of the latest companies to show off its quadcopter style is Sky Drive Inc. This startup was launched in 2012 and has received $37 million to date. In addition, Toyota is one of its notable backers. In August, the company held a public demonstration of its SD-03 as it flew around a field for 4 minutes. The SD-03 has 8 motors and takes up the space of about 2 cars when parking. But currently, its manageability still requires refinement. And its flying duration is only 10 minutes long. Clearly, this prototype is not yet ready for prime time.
Another company that has been around even longer is Terrafugia, which has been developing a car-like design with fold-up wings. Founded in 2006, the company is based in Boston and was started by a couple of MIT graduates. They have been predicting flying cars as the future of transportation for over a decade. However, their gasoline-powered model is unable to take flight from a standard road because of its design. Though attractive from a user point of view, Terrafugia’s Transition model needs refinement as well.
“In designing an unexplored, new genre of transportation known as the flying car, we chose the keyword “progressive” for inspiration. We wanted this vehicle to be futuristic, charismatic and desirable for all future customers.” – Takumi Yamamot, Design Director, Sky Drive Inc.
Increasing Interest in Flying Cars
While Toyota is backing Sky Drive in its pursuit of flying cars, it is also developing other ideas. Recently, the company filed for a patent that approaches flying cars from a different design perspective. Rather than simply having a quadcopter configuration, their patent allows for a dual mode vehicle. In other words, it can serve as both a car and a flying vehicle. In the design, each of the 4 wheels are on long arms that can be repositioned to serve as quadcopter propellers. This transformer prototype could really revolutionize the future of transportation if it works.
Toyota is not alone in its pursuits of innovative ideas for flying cars. Porsche and Boeing have also partnered together in their pursuits. Their partnership has been named Aurora Flight Services, and they plan on developing a drone-like quadcopter design as well. This will be interesting since Boeing’s initial attempts at flying cars failed. Their V-22 Osprey did not live up to expectations, which is why they are likely partnering with Porsche.
Will the Future of Transportation Ever Look Like the Jetsons?
In all 50 states, New Hampshire is the only one that has adopted flying car regulations. They allow manned flying cars to travel along public road. Unfortunately, there are not any current models capable of taking advantage of these laws. While advances and the level of interest in flying vehicles are occurring, the number of hurdles to overcome are multiple. Like autonomous cars, these designs must wait for infrastructures and regulations to catch up. In all likelihood, technology will deliver some great designs well before this takes place. But as far as the future of transportation is concerned, flying cars are likely a few decades off.
Innovations is bold living! For more on living a Bold Life, check out Ed Kopko’s PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success!