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Could Flying Cars Actually Be On Their Way?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the why-is-the-future-so-slow-to-arrive dept.

Transportation 381

another random user writes "With ideas like the Taylor Aerocar, Terrafugia Transition, Terrafugia Transformer, the PAL-V, and myCopter, are we getting close to a point where flying cars could actually become practical? An article at the BBC discusses how adding automation to these craft is an important goal for the people currently working on them, something we see paralleled in the many projects to develop autonomous non-flying cars. 'The team intends to draw on drone technology to automate as much of the flying as possible. Current fly-by-wire technology, as well as some of the features being used in the development of autonomous or robotic vehicles could all help fleets of these vehicles fly along predefined highways – and crucially avoid each other. But perhaps the biggest problem the team aim to tackle are the regulatory and safety issues, as well as those of public opinion.' If that does happen, given a lot of drivers' inability to pay attention to what's going on around them on the roads as it is now, how safe would you feel in the air?"

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In the air? (4, Interesting)

Vekseid (1528215) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991667)

I'd like to continue feeling safe on the ground, thankyouverymuch.

Re:In the air? (2)

Jakester2K (612607) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991691)

I'd like to continue feeling safe on the ground, thankyouverymuch.

You feel safe on the ground??! Huh....

Re:In the air? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992267)

Flying -- with the notable exception of lighter-than-air such as gasbags -- is too energy intensive to be consumer-level practical at this point in time. Leaving out the technological, mass production, and licensing hurdles.

Until or unless we can come up with inexpensive energy, it's not going to happen other than as a rich person's option.

Most people are intimidated by the amount it costs to *drive* somewhere. The cost of flying is like the cost of boating... much, much higher than driving.

Re:In the air? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992647)

Yet there are several 4 place aircraft which get better milage than an SUV at 4 times the speed, and the 2 place aircraft are better. When you start counting seat-miles, airplanes beat everything except train.

However, the FAA will kill this through regulation. Nothing in their charter requires them to allow aviation.

Re:In the air? (1, Interesting)

sortius_nod (1080919) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992289)

I don't think I ever "feel safe" on the ground with the nutbag drivers on the roads. So many people do so many dangerous things in cars. You may think it's safe, but it really isn't.

The only way to feel safer is to remove humans from the equation. Google's unmanned car: 300 000 miles, 0 crashes [extremetech.com] . There's not many cars that can claim those kind of statistics

Re:In the air? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40991705)

Considering most people can't drive in just 2D any attempt to become airborne will fail.

Flying cars are a tried and failed concept.

Re:In the air? (3, Funny)

SomeJoel (1061138) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991779)

Considering most people can't drive in just 2D any attempt to become airborne will fail.

Flying cars are a tried and failed concept.

I tried driving in 2D once, but I got a sense that I wasn't actually going anywhere.

Re:In the air? (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991967)

>>>I tried driving in 2D once, but I got a sense that I wasn't actually going anywhere.

That would be 1D.
I've flown model airplanes and it is not easy. I've crashed many of them too. I don't see that the average citizen could fly a car, unless it's completely automated (the computer flies the car).
 

Re:In the air? (4, Insightful)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992075)

Speaking from a bit of experience... There's a big difference in flying something sitting in a cockpit and sitting in a lawn chair. It's much easier actually being in the vehicle you are controlling and having all your appendages instead of just two thumbs to control with.

Re:In the air? (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992493)

Also you have a much higher interest in the successful completion of the flight when you're sitting in the vehicle. It tends to focus your concentration.

Re:In the air? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992089)

I'm a private pilot and fly R/C planes and helicopters as well. I can tell you that it is FAR more difficult to fly R/C.

That said, I wouldn't want every average Joe out there flying in my airspace!

Re:In the air? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40991927)

Flying cars are a tried and failed concept? Since when has a flying car proven to fail? Heck, since when has there even been a flying car?

Re:In the air? (1)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992179)

GOOGLE self-driving flying cars...

Now THERE's the future! Hey! Maybe they'll even call the cops on you...

Re:In the air? (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992549)

Touch screens are a tried and failed concept and look what happened.

Re:In the air? (1)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991935)

Exactly. The real question is "how safe would you feel with bad drivers in the air?". Or even better, high speed chases in the air. Ouch.

Re:In the air? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40991983)

Or even better, high speed chases in the air.

That is at least 170% too awesome to ever become real.

Re:In the air? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992199)

Exactly. The real question is "how safe would you feel with bad drivers in the air?". Or even better, high speed chases in the air. Ouch.

I've heard that, statistically speaking, flying is the safest form of transportation. The sooner we can get everybody into the air, the safer travel will become. ;-)

Re:In the air? (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992049)

I'd like to continue feeling safe on the ground, thankyouverymuch.

Every single broken down car I see on the highway on my way to work would be a dead person if it would have been flying, so yeah lol. Also, it takes MUCH more fuel to travel above the ground than on the ground so that's an absolute no, no, no, no, NO under any circumstances this decade! It's just not going to happen! It's like Prius vs Hummer x 100.

Re:In the air? (1)

Narcocide (102829) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992181)

That only assumes entirely vectored thrust flight instead of something like... lighter than air lift from say helium or hot-air.

Re:In the air? (1)

theqmann (716953) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992533)

Sweet, a hot air ballon car! Zepplin with wheels?

Re:In the air? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992591)

Also, it takes MUCH more fuel to travel above the ground than on the ground so that's an absolute no, no, no, no, NO under any circumstances this decade! It's just not going to happen! It's like Prius vs Hummer x 100.

I'll be sure to inform any glider pilots I meet of your opinion. Please send me your phone number so they may guffaw uproariously at your stupidity.

Re:In the air? (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992205)

I'd like to continue feeling safe on the ground, thankyouverymuch.

I feel plenty safe, air or ground, but I definitely wouldn't feel safe in the air surrounded by the people that are now filling the Dan Ryan Expressway every morning.

Me, I've got no problem with a flying car. It's having other people with flying cars that's the problem.

Re:In the air? (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992231)

I'm sure Chicago would be the exception. King Rahm would find a way to make transportation as difficult and costly as possible, even with flying cars.

i hope never (4, Interesting)

dmitrygr (736758) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991687)

As a pilot, I really really really hope this never happens! Most people are BARELY able to keep in control of their vehicles in 2D, and are entirely unsuited for 3D. Keep them away from the skies, so that those of us who passed the difficult tests and demonstrated our ability to handle an aircraft safely can continue to be safe and remain not in danger of idiots cutting us off, not following rules, etc...

Re:i hope never (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991737)

Roger that. Most people don't realize the challenges of operating in a 3D enviroment where your senses may be fooling you. Couple that with some of the junkers that haven't seen maintenance since the Nixon era and you have. Are wipe for disaster.

Re:i hope never (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40991757)

I fly a Vans RV-6. Slow, low-manueverability aircraft like these "flying cars" are just parking lot cones in the sky to me.

Re:i hope never (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992237)

Roger that. Most people don't realize the challenges of operating in a 3D enviroment where your senses may be fooling you. Couple that with some of the junkers that haven't seen maintenance since the Nixon era and you have. Are wipe for disaster.

I think you're misunderstanding what most of us mean when we talk about flying cars. I'm envisioning vehicles whose Z axis is maintained automatically except when you are about to park, with vehicles traveling in three or four altitude ranges, up to a couple hundred feet roughly above existing roads, not vehicles that fly along arbitrary paths, at arbitrary altitudes, etc.

I would expect the Z axis to depend entirely on which direction you're traveling. A left turn would require you to be above the left lane. (You'd have an augmented reality HUD windshield showing the driving lanes below you.) Then, you would turn the steering wheel to the left, causing the vehicle to bank and automatically ascend or descend as you approached the road you're turning onto. When you got to that point, you would curve towards the road, and right after the turn, you'd have to merge into a gap in the traffic to your right.

When you're ready to park, you would enter a designated landing zone, whereupon the vehicle would show you an image of the parking lot on the HUD, with an outline of your car superimposed. You would then find an empty parking space and tell the vehicle to descend into it.

Re:i hope never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40991745)

Elitist bastard

Re:i hope never (1)

Grave (8234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991799)

This is perfectly viable IF it is fully automated. But if we reach the point of full automation (and we're damn close to it thanks to Google), why bother with flying anyway? What is there to save? Oh sure, you could theoretically have a shorter distance, but the extra fuel you'd use up by flying instead of driving negates whatever you might have saved in the overwhelming majority of use cases.

Re:i hope never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992277)

This is perfectly viable IF it is fully automated. But if we reach the point of full automation (and we're damn close to it thanks to Google), why bother with flying anyway? What is there to save? Oh sure, you could theoretically have a shorter distance, but the extra fuel you'd use up by flying instead of driving negates whatever you might have saved in the overwhelming majority of use cases.

Yes, exactly, because everyone's situation is just like yours.

I'm guessing you're either very young (not likely with that uid), or unsuccessful in life, because you think the time/cost tradeoff would not favor flying. Me, I have more money than time, and buying a little aviation fuel to drastically cut travel time while lowering my risk from the highway is more than worth it.

Re:i hope never (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992355)

So I presume you presently commute by helicopter?

Re:i hope never (4, Interesting)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991805)

Meh... "real" bikers lament the increased popularity of motorcycles, and old school scuba nuts must hate PADI for making the underwater world accessible to all. I suppose it's only natural that pilots want the skies to themselves. Get off my lawn, but in 3D.

Still, one would hope that flying car pilots will have to pass the same rigorous difficulty tests, or keep their wheels firmly on the ground. And I think many will be unable to pass such a test. I agree with the article, and my money says flying cars will happen not before autonomous flight (including standard protocols for flight direction) becomes practical.

Re:i hope never (1)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992097)

I think it would be better if you had to pass the same tests as a pilot to fly a car, but failing the test means you can't drive a regular car either.

IMHO, the reason driving is so damn dangerous is because it's too easy to pass the driving test in the first place. What's worse is you can keep going back until you pass and then never have to take the driving test again. I had a cousin that failed three times before "getting lucky" at guessing on the multiple choice test. I also had a grandfather that was suffering from dementia, but was still allowed to drive until the year before he died. Sure most of the time he was ok, but a little more than once in a while he'd forget where he was or what he was doing. Eventually my Aunts and Uncles convinced him to give it up, but his problem would have easily been picked up if he had to retake his driving test.

I'm not a pilot, but I don't want the last thing I see to be some P.O.S flying car raining down on my head in a flaming heap of twisted metal.

Re:i hope never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992171)

...my money says flying cars will happen not before autonomous flight (including standard protocols for flight direction) becomes practical.

And you thought someone hacking your iPhone was bad.

Re:i hope never (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40991815)

As a pilot, I really really really hope this never happens! Most people are BARELY able to keep in control of their vehicles in 2D, and are entirely unsuited for 3D. Keep them away from the skies, so that those of us who passed the difficult tests and demonstrated our ability to handle an aircraft safely can continue to be safe and remain not in danger of idiots cutting us off, not following rules, etc...

As a person who wants flying cars and to be able to take naps on commutes, I disagree. This could be the break that autonomous land vehicles have been waiting for.

Step 1. Reserve flying car zones say, 500 feet.
Step 2. These zones would be for flying cars only. No ultralights, balloons, helicopters, small aircraft or lawn chairs allowed. Just flying cars.
Step 3. Make flying cars fully automated - no manual controls allowed. You want to go in a flying car? You let the robot drive. You want to drive yourself? You stick to two dimensions.

Sure, some people will die fiery deaths, but the convenience and time savings will push people to overlook it just as they do for conventional automobiles. Once road congestion is down on land, repeat the autonomous zone process with the now underutilized highway infrastructure.

Re:i hope never (1, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991851)

Flying cars are just a childish baby-boomer dream from the 1950s that somehow refuses to go away. Between safety and fuel economy concerns, it's hard to understand why people keep insisting on it. OK, OK, I get it. It seems like it would be really cool. At least it does if you shut your eyes really tight and wish really, really hard.

Re:i hope never (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991917)

It is a beautiful fantasy: you are stuck in endless traffic, you push a button on the dash and float into the air, then zoom along effortlessly to your destination while looking down on all the "normal" people stuck in traffic.

Unfortunately without a major technology breakthrough (which none of the designs are), it will remain a fantasy.

Re:i hope never (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991995)

That's what I think, but some folks will doggedly try to make the fantasy come true anyway. If it ever happens at all, I can't see it for several decades. The fuel issue is even more limiting than the safety issue, and I don't see the automation being up to par for quite a while. Flying a drone straight and level in a sparsely populated airspace is a far cry from putting a freeway full of cars in the air, with everyone in them hysterically hurrying to their destinations. Just the pick-up and BMW drivers alone would cause vast carnage.

Re:i hope never (2)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992035)

It is a beautiful fantasy: you are stuck in endless traffic, you push a button on the dash and float into the air, then zoom along effortlessly to your destination while looking down on all the "normal" people stuck in traffic.

Unfortunately without a major technology breakthrough (which none of the designs are), it will remain a fantasy.

I don't understand why we do not have small, one to two-person blimps flying around. The technology is there. They are safe. They might crash into eachother but will more than likely just bounce off. If they do plumet to the earth, they'll do it slow motion.

We obviously have the technology. No major breakthrough required. What am I missing here?

Re:i hope never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992129)

Vehicle speed.

Re:i hope never (1, Funny)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992163)

In America, almost half the population has guns. And youre flying in a blimp, as tempting a target as you could think of.

Not a good mix.

Re:i hope never (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992577)

A blimp already normally leaks more lifting gas than a bullet hole ever would.

Re:i hope never (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992303)

I don't understand why we do not have small, one to two-person blimps flying around. The technology is there. They are safe. They might crash into eachother but will more than likely just bounce off. If they do plumet to the earth, they'll do it slow motion. We obviously have the technology. No major breakthrough required. What am I missing here?

Safe lifting gas? He would be a waste in personal blimps. H is plentiful but the flammability is an issue.

Re:i hope never (1)

mug funky (910186) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992573)

CFCs are pretty stable.

Re:i hope never (1)

werepants (1912634) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992519)

I don't understand why we do not have small, one to two-person blimps flying around. The technology is there. They are safe. They might crash into eachother but will more than likely just bounce off. If they do plumet to the earth, they'll do it slow motion.

We obviously have the technology. No major breakthrough required. What am I missing here?

I would guess because blimps are slow, not very maneuverable, and have a tough time in bad weather. Personal transportation is about convenience, and so I don't think they fit that niche very well.

Don't get me wrong though. It would be a much more appealing landscape.

You might be ready ... but are THEY? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40991721)

It's bad enough that cars run into poles and each other on the ground. Worst that might happen is they crash into your local jiffy mart after jumping the concrete blocks that are trying to prevent that. What happens when bad driving start sending vehicles through the roof of your house?

No. No they are not. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40991741)

Heck the insurance alone would be insane.. Oh sure a pilot in a small plane is one thing...

but when you have thousands... millions... of people in the air in their own little flying cars?
where maint and upkeep is their responsibility.... yeah. i don't want any of those near me.

People can barely maintain their cars for 5 years at a time. Having them maintain planes is just insane.
Unless you're going to spawn an entire new well regulated industry to keep it all safe... That's not cheap either.

Plus the failure modes...

God no. keep the flying cars away from the general public until they are well regulated and 110% automated idiotproof.

Then we can get to work making better idiots and start over. :)

Re:No. No they are not. (2)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991755)

OK, but could we at least have jet packs?

Re: Jet packs (1)

LastDawnOfMan (1851550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991863)

We might have to have a couple of breakthroughs first. Like exceeding the current 6-second flight time. Or the problem of burning off your legs occasionally. Also, my ideal transportation includes some sort of protection from the weather. I live in Colorado, where it can be 90 degrees and sunny and ten minutes later 50 degrees and hailing.

Re: Jet packs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992189)

6 second flying time?

The martin Jetpack can fly for at least half an hour.

Re:No. No they are not. (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991867)

The only beneficiaries would be proctologists.

Good luck getting the fuel for it. (5, Insightful)

eggstasy (458692) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991771)

I thought the whole car thing was dying because we're running out of oil.
Can you build a UAV that carries a whole person AND a stack of lithium batteries?
Mass transit is still the way to go whether you're flying or not.
See, for instance, London's new Cable Car. I live in a hilly place and I can't for the life of me imagine why nobody thought it would be useful to simply go from hill to hill.

http://www.tfl.gov.uk/modalpages/23828.aspx [tfl.gov.uk]

Re:Good luck getting the fuel for it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992067)

Battery technology is closing in on the usable energy density of gasoline, and is within an order of magnitude. It is only a matter of time before it meets or exceeds that number.

With that kind of energy density, a little electric RC airplane DIY UAV will easily be able to fly 10 hours and ~500 statute miles (805km).

In addition, brushless motors almost never need maintenance, and the solid-state electronics to drive them never need maintenance.

The viability of a "flying car" depends how you define "flying car." We already have a variety of "flying cars," they're called "aircraft." If you mean the ability to land in front of your house? Well, you could already do that in a helicopter, but good luck getting the regulatory agencies to agree to that one. If you mean autonomous to the point of being flyable by the layperson with no or minimal training? Keep dreaming, while "see and avoid" exists it won't happen.

Re:Good luck getting the fuel for it. (2)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992113)

"In addition, brushless motors almost never need maintenance, and the solid-state electronics to drive them never need maintenance."

Remind me to never, ever, ever ride with you in your flying car.

Or hell, in any vehicle you ever own.

Re:Good luck getting the fuel for it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992415)

Different AC here. You, sir, are an idiot. Solid-state electronics don't need maintenance, or sorry do you usually take your car to get it's ECU checked up every 1000 miles. Additionally brushless motors = less wear and tear which means increased longevity. Hell, look at your windshield wiper motor for a prime example of brushless motors in use.

But don't worry, I wouldn't want you in my flying car either

Re:Good luck getting the fuel for it. (0)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992469)

Yeah have fun dying in a fire after you say "X NEVER NEEDS MAINTENANCE, EVER!"

Re:Good luck getting the fuel for it. (1)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992311)

I live in a hilly place and I can't for the life of me imagine why nobody thought it would be useful to simply go from hill to hill.

Because it'd always be an uphill walk to the station.

(Curious...an answer that's simultaneously serious and stupid.)

in a word: No (1)

mugnyte (203225) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991773)

Once the FAA puts these designs through the wringer, it'll be much the same involved certification process as current aircraft. Time, money and commitment keep most people out of recreational aircraft now, I doubt any of that will change. These are just overpriced new designs.
    http://www.faa.gov/pilots/become/ [faa.gov]

Re:in a word: No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992347)

You're talking out of your ass. The certification for the *operator* will almost certainly be along the lines of experimental aircraft. As in, "you fly, you die, we... well, we won't cry".

Where the certification *will* be tight is in the vehicle specs and maintenance. They'll be almost entirely automated with collision avoidance, hell, probably even remote control backdoors for the authorities.

Get the cars working NOW (1, Funny)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991787)

Then worry about safety features and regulation.

Don't stifle creativity. It makes for fewer hilarious prototype videos on YouTube.

Obligatory. (1)

antant007 (1702214) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991811)

No. [wikipedia.org]

Skip Until Automated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40991821)

Please lets skip the idea of a personal flying car until they are able to operate fully automated in below average conditions (whatever that is). This way we won't have all the difficulties integrating automation like we will/are having with automated land cars.

This might delay us a decade, but in the long run I think it'll be worth it (unless you die within that decade).

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40991841)

It's not a technical problem, it a legal program, like the self-driving-car. Both ain't gonna happen if zombies like the DMW is going to have a say in it (and for the forseeable future, they have a say in it)...

Difficult technology mix (5, Insightful)

joe_frisch (1366229) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991857)

Aircraft are technically marginal devices - minor increases in weight and drag have a significant effect on their overall performance. The compromises required to allow an aircraft to be used on the road will make it a really poor aircraft. If you read the performance information carefully on the Terrafuga, you will find that it is slow, doesn't carry much weight and has a very limited range.

People have come to expect a very high level of performance from their cars. The compromises required to make a car operate as an aircraft will make it a poor road vehicle.

The use case just isn't that compelling. Most of these vehicles will only be able to fly from airport to airport - which are often located in areas with large amounts of traffic. Once at the airport, the usual The pre-flight checks, and taxi / departure clearances will be required. The airplane / cars that have so far been exhibited are also not designed to deal with significant weather, or to operate over high terrain.

The existing model where you drive your (optimized) car to the airport and then fly your (optimized) airplane to its destination seems better. Rental cars are available at the general aviation terminals at many US airports, generally set up to minimize the time it takes to pick up and drop off.

Re:Difficult technology mix (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992125)

The terrafugia is not meant to be a daily driver.

It's purpose is literally to fly airport to airport.

Re:Difficult technology mix (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992661)

In that case it needs to be compared to a conventional airplane. The terrafugia has the advantage that you don't need to move your stuff between your car, the plane, and the rental car, but it still requires all the other time: preflight, weather check, departure clearances, etc.

You can't drive an terrafugia onto a runway and immediately take off any more than you can hop into a conventional airplane and take off without doing all the required checks.

Once in the air, it is going to be a lot slower and less capable than a comparable purpose-built airplane. The extra performance of the conventional plane will make up the (small) difference in set-up time for all but the shortest trips.

You think insurance is high now (1)

mkraft (200694) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991869)

People can barely drive correctly on the ground what with people texting while driving, tailgating or simply being a-holes on the road. Imagine what it will be like in the air and imagine the insurance.

The FAA and commercial airlines still haven't gotten free flight working and they've been at it for over 20 years. Do you really expect companies designing flying cars to do any better? Even if they can get auto-pilot and auto-collision working in the air (already available in large commercial aircraft), the cars still have to take off and land and do so anywhere, not just at airports. We still don't have cars that drive themselves (at least not good enough to put into production). Once that becomes available, then we can start talking about when flying cars will be available.

Pollution? (1)

brit74 (831798) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991877)

My first thought was that the gas-consumption and pollution would be significantly higher than with cars. But, I looked up fuel efficiency on wikipedia and it turns out that aircraft don't actually have bad fuel efficiency:

Airbus states a fuel rate consumption of their A380 at less than 3 L/100 km per passenger (78 passenger-miles per US gallon)
...
Under continuous motorised flight at 225 km/h, a Pipistrel Sinus burns 11 liters of fuel per flight hour. Carrying 2 people aboard, it operates at 2.4 liters per 100 passenger-km. Ultralight aircraft Tecnam P92 Echo Classic at cruise speed of 185 km/h burns 17 liters of fuel per flight hour, which imply 4.6 liters per 100 passenger-km (2 people). [26] Other modern ultralight aircrafts have increased efficiency; Tecnam P2002 Sierra RG at cruise speed of 237 km/h burns 17 liters of fuel per flight hour, which imply 3.6 liters per 100 passenger-km (2 people).

So it works out to something like:
Airbus - 78 miles per passenger per gallon of gas (but that's a large craft with lots of people, so it's probably more comparable to a bus)
Ultralight aircraft - somewhere around 60 miles per passenger per gallon of gas (though a flying car would probably be heavier, since most people wouldn't want a flying car that resembled an ultralight - plus they might want to have some luggage).

Re:Pollution? (1)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992123)

Airplanes dont' burn much fuel....at cruise. Take-off is a completely different matter. That's where the most fuel burn occurs.

Re:Pollution? (1)

Chuckstar (799005) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992295)

These mpg numbers aren't "apples to apples". Aviation fuel has a higher energy density than gasoline, so all else equal, you'd expect to get better mileage anyway.

Also, something like a Cessna tends to get mileage in the plus/minus 20 mpg range. A flying car would almost certainly be less efficient than a purpose-built aircraft.

Re:Pollution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992461)

You also have to consider the vertical takeoff considerations. VTOL aircraft require significantly more thrust as takeoff is not lift based. Thrust to weight ratios of aircraft are around 0.3 while this has to be greater than 1. Plus, you have to maintain altitude on something without significant lifting surfaces. The challenges are pretty significant but not impossible. And who knows, someone might come up with some cool technology out of it.

Too loud and inefficient (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40991885)

I imagine these vehicles get pretty poor "mileage" in the air compared to a typical car. Plus, I'm sure they're very loud. I think most people would object to the noise of these things taking off and landing in their neighborhood.

blast it with piss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40991907)

i can't wait to piss out the window

Re:blast it with piss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992611)

You'll be drenched by your own piss. But you'd probably like that.

No (5, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991941)

They are fundamentally problematic in several respects:

1. Piloting. Ordinary people cannot pilot anything flying safely.
2. Energy consumption. They just consume far too much with energy sources available today.
3. Landing and takeoff. You cannot do that just anywhere.
4. Air traffic control. They are already overloaded.
5. Unsuitable for roads. All designs so far have only very limited suitability as actual cars.

Unless all of these issues are solved at some point in the future, there will be no flying cars except demonstration stunts. Incidentally, anybody thinking about the issue rationally can come up with the above list easily. There seems to be a mental blockade a lot of otherwise intelligent people have with regard to flying cars.

Flying pigs (1)

bvdp (1517349) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991953)

It will happen ... but only for pigs.

Think further. (5, Interesting)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40991977)

Imagine if you did have VTOL personal transports. You could eliminate roads. It would be like what is happening with cell phones eliminating land lines. You would save all of the money currently spent on maintaining infrastructure. Also sprawl would explode as people buy land without worrying about infrastructure. Land prices would plummet in most places.

If you think Amazon is fast now wait until you place an order and a VTOL drone drops off a package on your front door 10 minutes later.

It would be a VERY disruptive technology.

Re:Think further. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992317)

Not to mention all the traffic cops if all the VTOLs were purely automated.

Eliminating the highway infrastructure would be highly welcome among the world's wildlife. Populations have been depleted because highways often cut across animals natural ranges and trails.

However a couple issues at stake:
1. NAMBY crowds: People won't like VTOL highways going right over their house. Noise concerns.
2. Environmental issues: there are 254 million cars in the US. Imagine if there were 254 million VTOLS. Could that effect bird, bat, and bug populations and migratory routes? It very well could.
3. Environmental issues: How are these VTOLs powered & how are they on power efficiency compared to a car?
4. Is individual private transport really worth developing to this extent when mass transit via an extensive maglev network may be more economically viable for our growing population & for our energy concerns?

Re:Think further. (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992433)

I'm assuming that the power will eventually be electric. If you look at energy/density storage curves it's inevitable. Tech can get rid of noise concerns too.

Individual transportation will always be superior because time is a very scarce resource for most people. The actual travel time on public transport can be fast but door to door personal transportation for almost all travel is better. Plus eliminating maintaining hundreds of thousands of miles of maglev will be more expensive.

Re:Think further. (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992593)

Tech can get rid of noise concerns too.

Except ballooning, no matter how you do it, flying implies compressing some mass of air... which gets uncompressed afterwards. Unless you have huge wingspans and fly slow, I don't see how eliminating noise is possible.

Re:Think further. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992343)

And further, with automated cars how far away are we from personal VTOL automated transport?

Then, while this would probably not happen in the US anytime soon, how far from pubic VTOL automated taxis? Oh Norway how we should all envy your culture.

About Time (1)

chasisaac (893152) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992077)

It is 2012. I was promised flying cars by the year 2000. I WANT MY FLYING CAR NOW!

Could Flying Cars Actually Be On Their Way? (4, Insightful)

mister2au (1707664) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992079)

Ummm ... no

Source: 40 years of "Could Flying Cars Actually Be On Their Way?" experience

Re:Could Flying Cars Actually Be On Their Way? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992419)

Finally, an intelligent analysis! Thank you!

Because something that hasn't happened yet is NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. That's just logic.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992103)

The "biggest problem" is power-to-weight ratio. You need a powerplant that can lift an un-aerodynamic, heavy airframe (which is what a "car" is. Because if it is an airframe with lots of lift and light weight, it has wings and is called an "airplane", a device which is hard to park in the lot at work).

And if you are thinking of putting a Harrier engine on it, remember that the Harrier carries a couple hundred gallons of water so that when it lands vertically, it doesn't melt the tarmac. This is important if you don't want a large pothole to form every time you park your aircar.

Basically, a flying car needs to have a super-powerful ducted fan powerplant, fueled by a very high-energy-density fuel source, that allows it to lift a standard 4 person airframe roughly the size of a small car, and put it down without damaging the asphalt.

Ain't happening anytime soon.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992145)

Never. Also, no Moon colonies, no Mars vacations, no space-based solar power, no asteroid mining, no space elevator. Ever.

The cheap energy fantasies from the space age have to be buried. We are here on this planet. That's it.

Not happening. Here's why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992169)

Flying cars are not yet practicable because there are still too many people. Maybe once we are down to a population of
a 500 million as the Georgia Guidestones demand, maybe then the elites will use them and possibly permit them to
selected favored trustees. Flying cars in todays society would totally be out of the question, think of the freedom they
enable, the ability to fly over fences and explore off-limits area, make fast get-aways from law enforcement. This totally
flies in the face of where they are taking the world and that is austerity and reduction of travel.

NOT. HAPPENING.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgia_Guidestones

Inscriptions

A message consisting of a set of ten guidelines or principles is engraved on the Georgia Guidestones in eight different languages, one language on each face of the four large upright stones. Moving clockwise around the structure from due north, these languages are: English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian.

        Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
        Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
        Unite humanity with a living new language.
        Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
        Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
        Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
        Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
        Balance personal rights with social duties.
        Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
        Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

Explanatory tablet

Flying cars are on their way (1)

nopainogain (1091795) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992175)

and you thought you hated watching your neighbor's kid park in front of your car BEFORE!

The astronomy community begs you (1)

dotsandlines (2021270) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992259)

Dear god no.

Blood will rain from the sky (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992261)

With the way I see people drive now, my family included, flying cars are not a good idea

Betteridge's Law (4, Insightful)

Art3x (973401) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992299)

No

You would get a bad airplane and a worse car. (1)

Todd Palin (1402501) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992331)

It is certainly possible to create a flying car, but you would get a bad airplane and a horrible car. Planes need to be light, and there is little thought given to crash survival. There are no airbags or energy absorbing structures. In a crash you usually have little bits of aluminum and pieces of the occupants spread over the crash site. In a car, weight isn't critical so you can have the luxury of crumple zones, air bags, and lots of sound deadening materials. You have the luxury of building sturdy seats out of steel that will withstand a crash. Cars even have spare tires, but planes don't. A light two seater airplane might weigh in at 450 pounds. A light two seater car is close to 2000 pounds without any wings, instruments, propellers, or control surfaces. You can make a flying car, but it would not fly well, and it certainly wouldn't pass current US crash standards. It would be a very expensive, and nearly unusable novelty.

I'd like a "motor in the wind..." (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992403)

http://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/imgs/chancevought-f4u-corsair.jpg [militaryfactory.com]

* I've always loved those - Almost a flying car alright, combustion engine with pistons, non-turbine design/no jet!

( A flying car? More like the flying "motor in the wind" I'd actually like to have... close enough & close enough for me!)

APK

P.S.=> Corsair - "Accept NO Substitute"... I'd love to be able to afford one - there's no stop signs, or speed limits (other than physics) upstairs (afaik, air traffic controllers & others feel free to respond with corrections, provided I'm off on that account also, of course)...

... apk

Not-Flying Cars Are Bad Enough (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992453)

Honestly quite a lot of the people currently driving not-flying cars really shouldn't be. A flying car would have to be a boring device that takes you to a number of pre-set destinations with no operator intervention (Other than setting the destination.) Safely piloting an aircraft in 3 dimensions is simply beyond the abilities of most people.

Basically the dream is to get where you're going as quickly as possible and not be bothered with traffic. Now if everyone has flying cars, you're probably still going to be bothered by traffic. I have a feeling autonomous cars will deliver on the flying car dream sooner and more efficiently than flying cars will. By the time a flying car is feasible and available to the general public, most people will probably not feel they need one anymore because autonomous cars will have streamlined traffic patterns and people will be able to attend to other things while commuting.

Not if they're under human control (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992483)

Going by the number of nose-to-tail incidents the current crop of drivers have a hard time dealing with single-dimension travel. It's a wonder there are not more accidents already. Adding a 3rd dimension in to the mix is only going to make it worse.

On that assumption, the only way it will work is if you enter your destination and the computer takes the best route to get you there, eliminating the driver.

Personally, I like driving. I find it enjoyable. I don't want to buy a car I can't drive. I might rent one, but if that's the case, wouldn't it make more sense to just have a bunch of automated taxis that anyone order from their phone?

Say goodbye to taxi drivers, independent automotive repair shops and the automotive aftermarket.

They already have them... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992489)

...they're called airplanes.

Of course! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992535)

They'll be here in about three years. Along with Mr. Fusion.

Of course there's always... (0, Redundant)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40992561)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge%27s_Law_of_Headlines

Mute point, too expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992575)

The cheapest 2 place airplane of modern design start about $125,000. Want a 4 seat, you need at least a quarter million. This will never reach affordability for a middle income family in my lifetime.

funny (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40992653)

That is funny :) Thanks! nha ve sinh luu dong [blogspot.com] nha ve sinh cong cong [blogspot.com] thong cong [blogspot.com]
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