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A Flying Leap for Cars? 795

Posted by michael
from the RSN dept.
pillageplunder writes "Businessweek has a story about flying cars and how they could be an actual viable thing in less than 10 years. First flying taxis, then, like the Jetsons, personal flying cars. Several are already on the board, with Honda and Toyota already having prototypes of small flying devices. Even General Electric is getting in on the deal, developing a small jet engine for Honda. So...would you buy one?"
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A Flying Leap for Cars?

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  • but (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 26, 2004 @10:57AM (#10078109)
    will it fold up into a breifcase?
  • by Mz6 (741941) * on Thursday August 26, 2004 @10:57AM (#10078113) Journal
    "Sure, the flying car is a long way off. But chances are, cars will eventually fly. Pigs won't. "

    Damn, I'll never get that date!

  • SUVs (Score:5, Funny)

    by donnyspi (701349) <junk5@donn[ ]i.com ['ysp' in gap]> on Thursday August 26, 2004 @10:57AM (#10078114) Homepage
    The last thing we need is flying SUVs.
  • Maintenance checks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yer Mom (78107) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @10:58AM (#10078124) Homepage
    Given how many people never bother to check water, oil etc until they break down at the side of the road, I really hope these cars will run full diagnostic checks before they let you start them...
  • by An. (Coward) (258552) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @10:58AM (#10078125)

    I live in Boston. Drivers here have more than enough trouble coping with travel in two dimensions. Adding a third is a recipe for disaster.

  • dangerous (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gyratedotorg (545872) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @10:59AM (#10078136) Homepage
    most human beings are dangerous enough driving in a 2d environment. imagine how dangerous they'll be in a 3d environment!
    • Re:dangerous (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TheRaven64 (641858) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:10AM (#10078329) Journal
      I very much doubt that it would be legal to drive such a thing on manual. Fortunately, an autopilot for a VTOL is far easier to write than an autopilot for a car (go up, head in correct direction avoiding anything with a radar signature, go down. You don't need to bother working out which bit is road, and there are not likely to be any pedestrians suddenly stepping in front of you, except when landing).
  • by jea6 (117959) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:00AM (#10078146)
    Yeah, in a heartbeat. As long as the licensing process for driving these suckers was long, expensive, and difficult. And that the minimum driving age was over 21. And that nobody over the age of 65 was allowed to drive these without rigorous yearly examinations. Last thing we need is old folks dive bombing farmers markets too.
  • The real question... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HalB (127906) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:00AM (#10078151)
    Will we have to use use "roads" in the air, or can we go as the crow flies? (going around military installqtions and so forth.
    • by ooby (729259) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:19AM (#10078459)
      "Where we're going, we won't need roads." ~ Emmitt Brown.
    • Will we have to use use "roads" in the air, or can we go as the crow flies? (going around military installations and so forth.)
      Do crows actually do that? I always figured they got some kind of "ignorance of the law" pass or something.
  • by GillBates0 (664202) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:00AM (#10078154) Homepage Journal
    Anti-gravity, or atleast better flotation or something.

    All the effort, fuel and pollution required just to get a hunk of metal off the ground and keep it there with the current technology is wasteful and unsustenable.

    • by raygundan (16760) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:19AM (#10078451) Homepage
      I'm an environmental nut, and I'm not sure how the economy for small planes is-- but large airliners get something like 90 mpg per passenger, more efficient per person than my civic with an extra passenger.

      Economy of scale plays a big part, by cramming lots of people in. But don't lump all air travel into the "automatically inefficient" category-- it was more efficient than I expected, too.
  • Way to go (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thrill12 (711899) * on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:00AM (#10078160) Journal
    Now instead of getting all our cars to drive environmentally friendlier and less expensive (keywords: electrical [forbes.com], hybrid [hybridcars.com], bio-fuel [bioregional.com]), we drop the effort and start producing a new kind of vehicle that flies.
    And ofcourse it uses kerosine for that (ever seen an electrical plane, man-sized ?).
    This gives us a whole new excuse to soup up more oil and pollute even more..

    What's next ? Real personal rockets ? [xprize.org]
    • Re:Way to go (Score:4, Interesting)

      by register_ax (695577) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:50AM (#10078916) Journal
      Innovation comes in step which is mostly due to having to recoup development costs. The component price of a personal aircraft benefit from using a cheap fuel source or at least a source with proven compenents like an engine that would not have to entirely redeveloped for aerial travel like an electrical engine. So what is *really* important like safety mechanisms can be established.

      This doesn't say that you will disband fuel efficient tech. Rather a technology will become better efficient wise as a technology matures and mistakes are learnt from. Afterall, you wouldn't be saying China should be embargoed because of their recent spike in oil demand and expect them to be using a UN-specified percentage of fuel efficient cars within their boundary.

      It's like the maglev train [howstuffworks.com] china decided [slashdot.org] to go and build [slashdot.org]. The only problem was who it was going to service [slashdot.org] with the price being a bit high for that middle class chinese citizen. Quoting myself from a post in an earlier article [slashdot.org], "one trip costing roughly 1/20th of one person's income for a month." That demonstrates the sociological implications of investing in a technology, but also environmental as in this post [slashdot.org] says Price conscious people takes the bus to major transportation hubs, and convenience / time consicous people takes the taxi (which is only like 15 dollars compared to 10 dollars that the maglev costs - besides the point that the other end station is nowhere near the city and you have to take a cab anyway so it's not that much faster).

      Which basically says that as long as the tech is defined to profitable areas like the airport and downtown it can remain cheap and less the cost of other tech. But what happens when you need to get somewhere else and that issue of human convenience comes up?

      I think it is a matter of trade-offs. That and allowing engineers to work on interesting problems.

  • Drunk Flyers? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tbcpp (797625) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:02AM (#10078198)
    I can see the headlines now: "200 people killed when drunk driver collides with office building". If we have problems with people staying on the road in a car, what will it be like if they can fly?
  • Oil dependency... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by adisakp (705706) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:03AM (#10078215) Journal
    How many miles per gallon will a flying car get?
    • Re:Oil dependency... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dav3K (618318)
      With airplanes, fuel burn is usually measured in gallons per hour. And for small (ie. 2 seat) planes, fuel consumption typically starts at around 4 GPH. Cruise speed for an engine like this depends largely on the aircraft, but varies between about 65 mph to about 120 mph. Obviously, higher amounts of fuel will allow for higher speeds. Most planes with piston engines that travel at around 200 MPH get between 8 and 12 GPH.
  • by a_nonamiss (743253) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:04AM (#10078223)
    We have been fantisizing about flying cars for generations, but in reality, are they ever going to be practical? Sure, you can go faster without all the resistance from the tires, but it takes a hell of a lot of energy to keep such a heavy object in the air. In the Jetsons, we had this notion that somehow we'd be able to overcome gravity and the cars would just float, but to date there's no evidence for such technology. For now, we have to blow a bunch of air down and the corresponding reaction is that the car stays up. Not very efficient for travelling.

    I hate to be the skeptic, because I would love to be able to fly to work, but I don't see it being practical in our lifetimes.
    • buying/building a kit aeroplane or an ultralight isn't that expensive now.

      a flying car isn't a dream about a flying device that's cheap, rather a dream about some way to control those things and quiet them down so that they could be used in city-limits without giving it much thought.
    • Precisely (Score:5, Insightful)

      by delcielo (217760) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:59AM (#10079049) Journal
      I agree completely.

      Currently, the only methods for making things fly involve high velocities (rotors, props, turbines) and the associated noise from those moving things.

      People already move next to the airport, then sue the airport management for excessive noise. Nobody is going to tolerate a jet-powered car next door.

      Finally, it's just not practical to use that much energy to commute downtown. And if you find a destination for which this makes sense, it would probably be better served by an airplane anyhow.

      I can see certain applications for the technology (search and rescue, surveillance, etc); but even those are served well by current technology.

      As the parent implied, until we find an anti-gravity technology, flying cars will always be a lark.

  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:04AM (#10078228)
    This? [povcomp.com]
  • Errrr.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kmak (692406) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:07AM (#10078266)
    Not to burst anyone's bubbles, but just looking at the fuel efficiencies of current cars, after 100 years.. is this even feasible with the oil crisis as it is?
  • After that (Score:3, Funny)

    by FaasNat (522755) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:07AM (#10078273)
    Now they just need to start working on Mr. Fusion....
  • by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:08AM (#10078293) Homepage Journal
    The thing that caught my eye in "I, Robot" was will smith's Audi. Instead of having regular wheels it had spheres for wheels. this allowed him to basically travel in any direction in any heading. Pretty dang slick.

    You would be doing away with conventional steering hardware, probably for a bunch of electronics to "run" the wheel in any direction you like in conjunction with the other wheels. My question is, how would you do it? Would it be just like an AC motor wrapped in rubber, with the rest of the motor surrounding the sphere wheels?

    That would make parallel parking a cinch.
    • That would make parallel parking a cinch.

      So would four wheel steering with a much greater steering angle such that the wheels can be positioned at a 90 degree angle to the side of the vehicle, and it would be a lot easier to carry off from an engineering standpoint.

      People have enough trouble driving cars that can't strafe. I definitely don't want to see this technology on our roads ever, at least not for the general populace, unless the vehicles are entirely self-driving.

    • Spherical wheels have less contact patch to the road than regular wheels do. Also, what sort of tread pattern do you use on spherical wheels that go in all directions? Better to have regular wheels with 180 degrees of turning capability than spherical wheels. Probably easier too.
  • by Cragen (697038) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:13AM (#10078374)
    The Good news: No more fender benders. The Bad news: All wreck that render the car "un-flyable" has cars dropping out of the air. Look out below! (And what if you land in a different county than the one you had the wreck in? These is just *so* much that needs to be thought about!)

    I think I will stay on the ground, after all.

  • by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:14AM (#10078385) Homepage Journal
    I've always been interested in this, and followed the subject for the past couple decades. A friend has done the same since the 50s (and did classified work for the USAF with something I'm pretty sure involving planes).

    To date there are basically two classes of "flying cars" - light aircraft that look like cars and fold up to drive (similar to the Aquacar and other novelity cars), and scams like anything Moller puts out under his Skycar company.

    Moller is actually "making" real commuter flight vehicles, 400 mph, mpg roughly equal to a car, park in a garage, take off from the driveway (or helipad if the FAA never allows driveway flight). The only problem is, his test flights have been happening for decades, commercial models for sale have always been a "year or two away", and all test flights (until a couple recent ones) have all been tethered and a dozen feet above the ground.

    Unlike fusion, which is always a decade away because there needs to be a breakthough, Moller says he has it working and ready. But he's been saying that for a long, long time.

    The "planes that convert to cars" (and their cousins, one of which is mentioned in the article, "helicopters that convert to cars") have been around commercially since the 1950s, and they generally work fairly well. They aren't very efficient, but they fly, drive and a new model comes out from somebody every five years or so (until the chilling effect from lawsuits slowed small aircraft production recently).

    --
    Evan

  • Never Happen (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NtroP (649992) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:14AM (#10078390)
    It takes me a good 15 - 20 minutes to properly preflight my plane before I take off. This is to make damn sure that it is in perfect running condition. If anything is not right I don't go.

    On the other hand, I hop right into my mercedez and take off for work. If something does't feel right or sound right or if I am really low on gas, I figure "hey I'd better do something about that sometime soon", and drive off. I can always pull to the side of the road. I can't do that in my plane. If something goes wrong and I need to "pull to the side of the road" I'm in a bit of a pinch. I have a ballistic parachute installed but I'd really hate to have to use it.

    I can't ever imagine what flying would be like if everyone just hopped into their flying cars and took off (after cocktails, in a hurry, low on gas, in a poorly maintained vehicle, without a license, in bad weather, etc). What a nightmare!

    Don't get me wrong, I think flying is wonderfull and that everyone should be able to do it, after rigorous training and certification, in a well maintained vehicle, clearly understanding when conditions are right to fly!

    • Re:Never Happen (Score:4, Insightful)

      by transient (232842) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:41AM (#10078769)
      And it would take a lot longer than 15-20 minutes if you didn't have the reassurances provided by annual inspections, periodic engine overhauls, mandatory logging of all maintenance activity, federal certification of the specific model and all installed equipment, rigorous training and certification of aircraft mechanics (and pilots for that matter), and one of the most safety-conscious subcultures in the world. Simply put, flying cars are not going to happen.

      (OT: Is your parachute after-market, or do you fly a Cirrus?)

    • Re:Never Happen (Score:3, Interesting)

      by argStyopa (232550)
      Then again, weren't early cars like this too? I.e. constant inspections, tinkering, tweaking, and generally a lot of fooling around required to make/keep them running?

      Also, accidents back then were horrifically lethal.

      Granted, your point is correct that there is an intrinsically higher danger taking a vehicle up in the air than on the ground.
      However, I'm not entirely persuaded that much of the current pilot requirements/standards aren't legacy issues that could be engineered out for a lower proficiency u
  • Another hitch (Score:5, Interesting)

    by m.h.2 (617891) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:25AM (#10078552) Journal
    Here's something I have yet seen mentioned: What about law enforcement? Unless the cops have these, I don't see how they'll let the general population drive them. It'll be pretty difficult for a cop in a standard cruiser to pull you over if you can just lift off and escape him. Even with radios and helicopters, by the time they can dispatch a chopper, you could be outta there.
    • ..."when pigs can fly."

      --
    • by Mad Man (166674) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @12:31PM (#10079483)
      Re: Another hitch (Score:4, Interesting) [slashdot.org]

      Here's something I have yet seen mentioned: What about law enforcement? Unless the cops have these, I don't see how they'll let the general population drive them. It'll be pretty difficult for a cop in a standard cruiser to pull you over if you can just lift off and escape him. Even with radios and helicopters, by the time they can dispatch a chopper, you could be outta there.


      Here's another possibility:

      When the flying cars first come out, they will probably be limited to law enforcement (and important government officials and their connected friends/donors, of course). After all, if only the police should have guns, why should anyone else be trusted with potential flying bombs?

      After a while, a whole generation will grow up in a world where flying cars are exclusively limited to the government, and the "right" to own one will never trickle down to us peons.

      Besides, how many civilian flying cars did you see in Blade Runner [imdb.com]? "You know the score; if you're not a cop, you're little people."
  • by EarwigTC (579471) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:25AM (#10078562)
    Everyone seems to talk about successful personal air transport as a 100% replacement, and consequently see it as unfeasible or unlikely. TV doesn't kill radio, Internet doesn't kill TV, and flying cars don't need to kill conventional ground transport to be a success. They will become a new, useful and probably small part of the transportation ecology. But it won't stop walking, biking, trains and conventional driving.
  • So much FUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SilkBD (533537) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:32AM (#10078655) Homepage
    I'm amazed at how much Fear and panic there are in these comments.

    It's attitudes like this that stifle progress.

    Yes, there's a danger but that's the nature of progress. The danger will be curbed by technology and beaurocracy(sadly)...

    I say, bring it on.
  • by youngerpants (255314) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:33AM (#10078674)
    Quite late in the thread, so this probably wont get read, but this was the flying car argument I had the other night.

    The "flying car " (moller, honda et al) should not be seen as a replacement for a car. The driving/ piloting restrictions will (and should) be very stringent. Not as hard to get as a commercial flying license, but harder than a driving test.

    This creates a new niche market for corporates to have a fleet of cars & pilots where it will be cheaper than flying its execs all over the country, where we can get flying taxis, or the well to do will have a chauffer who can both drive their limo, or fly their moller.

    Car companies will not be the ones effected, but instead the short haul flights business will see a dramatic drop in sales; if anything these companies should invest in flying taxis, the planes will become flying coaches instead
  • Too many pessimists (Score:4, Informative)

    by gerry101 (630141) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:34AM (#10078688)
    I don't think anyone will have to worry about oil prices, drunk drivers, old grannies or terrorists (not much anyway). Moller's SkyCar has 3 onboard computers (2 as a backup) to help fly the thing, front and rear parachutes, and can run on alcohol (or even LPG). There are also 6 turbine engines so if 2 should fail you should still be able to do an emergency landing (AFAIK, it's been a while since I read the article on it).

    Mr Moller had major problems with testing - nobody would insure him for an untethered flight!

    Then there's the matter of airspace and where you can fly. Air Traffic Control would have to make sure nobody flew into populated areas, military airspace, each other etc. This means a massive overhaul and spending on ATC to handle the millions of vehicles in the air simultaneously.

    Moller said in the article I read that the amount of airspace around our planet is so large, it was unlikely that you would come across another SkyCar on your journey, even if every family in the world had one.

    I doubt if people will be allowed to land in the middle of populated areas, we're more likely to have skyscraper car parks.

    I should think Moller has the patent on SkyCars and that he'll make a bundle from car manufacturers (if he's still alive by the time they're mass produced!). I'd say we're looking at 50 years minimum until they become commonplace. Then instead of paying road tax we'll be paying air tax :-(

  • My take... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dcw3 (649211) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:35AM (#10078689) Journal
    As a private pilot, I don't think this pig will fly. Yes, planes could be made that would allow nearly anyone to fly, but then there are all kinds of additional complications. You have to teach people about controlled airspace, emergency procedures, and where exactly does the TSA inspect the baggage?

    Someone above stated that flying vehicles wouldn't be any more of a problem then ground traffic. I'd have to disagree. Light aircraft have a small radar signiture, and can slip by relatively easily. You might recall the German kid who flew a small plane right into Red Square in Moscow, or how the private pilot crashed his plane into the front of the White House. Yes, transponders are supposed to help, but if the pilot turns it off, he's unlikely to be seen. And, even when it's on, I've been told by ATC that they couldn't see me because I was at 1800 ft. ASL...too low for them. Now pack that thing with 500lbs of C4, and tell me that it's not a risk!

    Now, try multiplying the number of planes in the sky by an order of magnitude, and tell me how we're not going to have a bunch of mid-air collisions too?
    • Re:My take... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by isorox (205688) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @12:28PM (#10079445) Homepage Journal
      Yes, lets ban trucks too cause they can be packed with C4 and blow up bridges.

      The rest of the world has lived with terrorism for years, you dont suddenly stop because some wankers give you a bloody nose.

      Mid air collisions and drunk drivers are problems, but saying someone can change their plane into a missile is ludicrous. They can do that now perfectly well anyway.
  • It won't happen. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Megane (129182) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:35AM (#10078695) Homepage
    Why? Because even if the cars can be made to work, the drivers can't be trusted to handle it. That's why we have the FAA.

    We have enough car accidents where only forward motion is involved. Let me put it this way. Would you want one of these things flying over your neighborhood, piloted (yes, piloted, not driven) by someone who could be a total moron, yakking on his cell phone, or maybe just drank a six pack?

    Yeah, I'd sure like one of those things falling through the roof of my house, I can tell you right now. Not.

    Roads aren't just to make wheels work. They also provide boundaries of where you can't go.

    • by freeweed (309734) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @12:56PM (#10079815)
      Would you want one of these things flying over your neighborhood, piloted (yes, piloted, not driven) by someone who could be a total moron, yakking on his cell phone, or maybe just drank a six pack?

      Nope. I also wouldn't want to have a CAR driving through my neighbourhood, driven by someone who could be a total moron, yakking on his cell phone, or maybe just drank a six pack. But it's better than having no cars driving at all.

      New technology happens whether it scares you or not. If these "take off" (pun intended), we'll just bring in some safety measures and laws to help mediate the risks.

      Just like we did with cars in the first place. "They frighten the horses and can cause injury as a result!" was one of the oft-repeated arguments against mass adoption of cars. Didn't stop progress.
  • by boatboy (549643) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:36AM (#10078701) Homepage
    I believe there will be a reversal of urbanization if & when fast, efficient long distance trasportation comes to market. Many people- myself included- prefer lots of space, but live in the city or suburban areas because they like being close to things like grocery stores, friends, church, etc. The faster you can get to these places, the further away you can live from them.

    May not seem that profound, until you consider things like the last election map. An exodus from the city would no doubt have interesting social consequences.
    • This is exactly the effect that cars and freeways had. In 1900 business people had no choice but to live in the city, close to where they worked. Today people routinely commute fifty miles to work. You can see the difference in comparing Manhatten to Los Angeles. Manhatten grew up before the car. It handles its huge population by being very very dense. It grew as a place that you could walk to the grocery and to work. Los Angeles is smaller in popuplaiton but sprawls out in every direction, people ca
  • myself, I've become convinced that many pilots are incompetent much of the time and all pilots are incompetent occasionally. And this is after a rigorous training program. Real aircraft are much more difficult to fly in real time than MS Flight Simulator (or *any* simulator).

    The idea of "an airplane in every garage" has been around at least since the 1940s judging by my recollections of Popular Mechanics articles alone. But it never got closer than the 1950s. I can remember airports with hundreds of private aircraft (Stinsons, Luscombes, Cessnas, Pipers, Beechcrafts, etc) tied down in lines. Those lines of airplanes are conspicuously absent at the few airports left which cater to private flyers. A testimony to the expense of building, maintaining and operating even the simplest flying machines.

    The ubiquitous "air-car" could only work if there were strict control over both the air-car and the pathways it travels combined with fail-safe recovery techniques in the event of mechanical failure. In other words, give the "pilot" control only over what time he leaves and his destination. Everything else - altitude, speed, course - is controlled by a common system that can keep theat vehicle - and every other vehicle - on the path it's been assigned to.

    The air-car would also have to be able to stop and maintain altitude and position in mid-air in order to reduce the chances of collisions.

    This combination of control and mechanical reliability would be *very* expensive not even including the cost of fuel. It would take a society that was dedicated to the premise that some very rich people could free themselves of ground transportation while the rest of us paid for the infrastructure.

    Which is basically what we do with helicopters and personal jets now.
  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:44AM (#10078808)
    anyone out there with the specs handy for how much helium/hydrogen(if you like to live dangerously) it would take to lift one 250 lb. person? i think it would be much cooler to have traffic floating around instead of the blast of a jet engine every morning when the neighbor takes off for work.
  • by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:47AM (#10078857)
    The Moller Skycar [moller.com] has been in the works for years. Popular Science has done several issues on them. Now suddenly Honda and the like are planning on making flying cars? Is everyone just waiting for his patents to expire or something?
  • by StrawberryFrog (67065) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:52AM (#10078954) Homepage Journal
    You will not get mass consumer flying cars any time soon.

    We worry about how much fossil fuel cars use. Flying cars would be far worse.
    We complain about the noise of cars. Flying cars will be far worse.

    But most of all, cars kill people at an appalling rate, through mechanical failure and driver error. Flying cars would be far worse. Do you really want carloads of drunken students in mechanically unsound vehicles to be hundreds of feet above our cities and houses?
  • by Have Blue (616) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:53AM (#10078965) Homepage
    One fallacy that many people in this argument seem to be making is that once flying cars become feasible, everyone in the country will instantly replace their ground cars with them. In reality (if I may even use that word here), adoption is going to be slower and more gradual. I wouldn't be surprised if the first customers are emergency services; wouldn't they snap up a vehicle that can be stored in a garage and driven on the ground by personnel without special training, and also bypass traffic jams and instantly reach the roof (or even any window of) a skyscraper? They already use helicopters anyway.
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @11:54AM (#10078979)
    Yes, he's been at it for a long time. And it's always RealSoonNow(tm).

    Anybody ever seen one of his things actually fly? Unmanned tethered hover [moller.com] doesn't count.
  • by Dr. Zowie (109983) <slashdot@NOSPaM.deforest.org> on Thursday August 26, 2004 @12:22PM (#10079356)
    The biggest problem (societally) with flying cars is not the individual cost -- it's that they're so energy-intensive. SUV's may have dismal efficiencies, but they look like jellybean riceburners compared to personal helicopters. The "springtail" mentioned in the article gets less than 20 MPG under ideal conditions -- carrying a single person and not counting hover time.


    Over the next 50 years, unless renewable, portable fuel (e.g. fuel cells together with solar or nuclear electrolysis plants) become insanely cheap, the name of the transportation game will be "efficiency". $40/barrel oil may seem expensive now, but in another few decades it'll seem insanely cheap.

  • by What'sInAName (115383) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @12:35PM (#10079553) Homepage Journal

    I think a lot of these problems you've all been talking about will just go away if we just travel in *4D* instead. Imagine disappearing from your home at 10:00 and showing up at work at 08:00 on the same day. Of course, it might be confusing if you try to call home to check the messages before 10, but even that might have some uses...

    You: "Hello, Dave speaking."

    You: "Hi, it's you. Ummm, don't eat that two-week old yogurt in the fridge, or you'll regret it later. Oh god, I've gotta go..."

    Hmmm, what a strange post, and I haven't even been drinking.
  • by Quinn_Inuit (760445) <Quinn_Inuit@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday August 26, 2004 @12:36PM (#10079555)
    Randall and Dante discuss flying cars [viewaskew.com] in a short that first appeared on Leno.
  • by Afty0r (263037) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @12:41PM (#10079620) Homepage
    About half the posts modded 4/5 are talking about people "driving" these things.

    We already have the technology to fully automate this mode of transport - you use the car as normal on the ground, but to fly you change to computer-controlled mode before the car leaves the ground. Navigation, maneuvring and landing are all accomplished by the computer. The manual overide will call home and involve a HUGE fine if you use without good reason (storm coming up, unknown obstruction in path etc.).

    European auto manufacturers have auto car control systems running dozens of vehicles around tracks and across intersections without human drivers - if this technology was mandated in, say, 2008 we would suddenly have shorter journey times, fewer crashes, better fuel economy etc. But you would never steer your own car again except in emergency.

    The technology to do this is HERE, it's just not commoditised yet - as soon as there is enough financial impetus behind it, you can bet your bottom dollar someone will do it.
  • by rcastro0 (241450) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @12:48PM (#10079711) Homepage
    As someone living in one of the largest cities in the world (São Paulo, Brazil), in an eight-floor apartment and with recently bought sound insulating windows, my only concern is: How much noise do these creatures produce ? I don't want anyone flying under my window at 3am in the morning and waking me up.

    Now, small blimps with eletric motors, that would be OK.
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday August 26, 2004 @02:35PM (#10080953) Homepage
    The big problem is that making small jet engines is still too expensive. Most light planes are still powered by reciprocating engines. There's been talk of small jets for general aviation for decades, but nobody seems to be able to bring it off.

    It's not that you can't build a small jet engine. It's that the price doesn't decline much with size. Engines sized for small aircraft aren't much cheaper than those built for business jets.

    There was an effort at NASA to fix this problem [nasa.gov], but it failed and was cancelled in 2002.

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