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Where are the Flying Cars? (Video; Part One of Two)

Soulskill posted about 5 months ago | from the keeping-up-with-the-jetsons dept.

Transportation 107

Detroit recently hosted the North American Science Fiction Convention, drawing thousands of SF fans to see and hear a variety of talks on all sorts of topics. One of the biggest panels featured a discussion on perhaps the greatest technological disappointment of the past fifty years: Where are our d@%& flying cars? Panelists included author and database consultant Jonathan Stars, expert in Aeronautical Management and 20-year veteran of the Air Force Douglas Johnson, author and founder of the Artemis Project Ian Randal Strock, novelist Cindy A. Matthews, Fermilab physicist Bill Higgins, general manager of a nanotechnology company Dr. Charles Dezelah, and astrobiology expert Dr. Nicolle Zellner. This video and the one you'll see tomorrow show their lively discussion about the economic, social, and political barriers to development and adoption of affordable flying cars. (Alternate Video Link)

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Where is a decent microphone? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47665695)

Forget flying cars - this group can't even get a decent microphone.

Couldn't someone have recorded this on a broken cellphone to improve the audio quality?

Re:Where is a decent microphone? (1)

whereiswaldo (459052) | about 5 months ago | (#47667943)

I've heard worse recordings, although I'd prefer a transcript.

Obviously... (2)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 5 months ago | (#47665729)

Obviously, the sleek, compact flying cars we're waiting for are sitting right alongside the compact gravity repulsion units and the ununpentium powercells...

Re:Obviously... (1)

Knee Patch (2647703) | about 5 months ago | (#47665895)

This. The jetpack/flying car whining just needs to stop. Some problems are really hard, and the imagined solutions to some problems make no sense at all. Turns out moving along the surface of the earth is really easy, and (gasp!) we can get to pretty much everywhere we need to by doing so.

Re: Obviously... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666089)

Can't you read? We're discussing economic, social, and political barriers. Laws of physics don't matter here, right?

Re: Obviously... (2)

IMightB (533307) | about 5 months ago | (#47667823)

Nonsense. If we all simply stopped believing in secular BS like "Science" and "The Laws of Physics" we'd already have flying cars, unobtainium and sharks with lasers on their foreheads.

Re:Obviously... (1)

alphafive (3784147) | about 5 months ago | (#47666177)

All this does is raise more questions and more debate? Why do people want to fly? Is it that they equate air travel with faster travel? Is it because they imagine easier access with less infrastructure? Is it simply for the fun of it? Ps. The science fiction convention is the perfect place to ask these questions. It's a panel for fun.

Re:Obviously... (1)

rioki (1328185) | about 5 months ago | (#47669291)

What?! There are "flying cars", it is a solved problem. The normal term is Helicopter, but if you wish can call it a Flying Car. Just because you can't afford one or the maintenance of one, does not mean it doesn't exist. The myth actually is that everybody will be able to afford a "flying car", which misses the point of how much energy is required to maintain flight.

My favorite rejoinder (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 5 months ago | (#47665733)

"Space exploration and fusion skeptics like you are the just like the people who said we'd never have flying machines, cellphones, and televisions."

"No, I'm like just the people who said we'd never have flying cars, home nuclear reactors, and robot nannies."

Re:My favorite rejoinder (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 5 months ago | (#47665893)

Rosie, cover your audio inputs. What?! Eeeek! Don't say that! [wordpress.com]

Not practical (3, Informative)

loufoque (1400831) | about 5 months ago | (#47665753)

We don't have flying cars because they wouldn't be practical outside of long travels, and for long travels traditional airplanes are more economical and the ability to not be dependent on a third party service matters less.

The utility/need/desire exists (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 5 months ago | (#47665863)

You clearly live in a flat place near an airport hub. Flying cars would be tremendously practical for most of the US, which are not near hubs. It's 40 miles to my parent's house, 100 if you drive. They happen to live two mountain ranges over and across a lake from me so the path to get there is rather circuitous. I'm 3-4 hours drive from 4 different large airports, but the only one within an hour has a horrible flight cancellation record, costs $100-200 more per trip than a hub, and to catch a flight that takes me to a hub I have to leave the house earlier than if I just drove straight to the hub.

Sure, travel more than 200 miles or so is probably more economical on a commercial jet, and more than about 400-500 miles is probably the break point for convenience/cost combined. But outside the big cities, which comprise less than 2% of the land area of the US, there are lots of use cases for a flying car.

Besides, a real flying car (not a roadable aircraft) should be able to reasonably navigate local traffic as well as airborne travel.

It's arguable whether having five million flyers is a safe thing, but as for the utility - it's definitely there.

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 5 months ago | (#47666011)

You might think a plane would be nice, but cars have their advantages too. Being on land means you can handle bad weather much better in a car than in a plane. Also, having a mechanical breakdown is less dangerous in a car than in a plane. Cars can usually carry much more cargo in their car too. You can tow a trailer if you really want. Most personal planes have very little room for luggage, and don't allow for a lot of extra weight. Along the same lines, most personal planes don't have a lot of room for oversize people. Sure you could design a with the intention of carrying extra weight and larger passengers, but then you need a bigger engine, which becomes less efficient and is quite wasteful when you only have a single passenger.

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666855)

also, pilots licenses are expensive, and GA is dangerous enough without overworked soccermoms trying to beat their kids in the back of the car while trying to avoid windsheer and keep up with an IFR beacon.

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (1)

HappyHead (11389) | about 5 months ago | (#47666055)

It's arguable whether having five million flyers is a safe thing

It's not even arguable - it's absolutely not a safe thing. The street I used to live on was littered with bits of cars that fell off, and then the owner didn't even bother going back to get. Hub caps, mirrors, door handles, mufflers, once a whole rear fender. Basic maintenance, or even "taking care not to run into things" is an alien concept to a lot of drivers, most of whom will be the first one to get angry and confrontational if you suggest that maybe they need to take better care of things.

And the Flying Car advocates want these people flying over top of my house?

No thank you. There's enough things to worry about dying from than some idiot's fender falling on me while I'm walking down the street.

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#47666163)

Obv it's out of the question because of the outrageous amount of fuel that would be burned. But for the sake of the imagination...

The technology wouldn't be ready until it was autonomous. Most people couldn't do the thinking in 3D necessary to fly one themselves, and be safe.

They'd have to design flying cars to have the minimum chance of things falling off. So there'd be no equivalent of hub caps and fenders. And cars tend to have the mechanics on the underside reasonably exposed. I'd imagine a flying car being as much of an enclosed shape as possible such that anything that does fall off just rolls about inside (if it's not a flight critical thing!)

And with the autonomous thing, you could imagine them being routed as far as possible over fields, rivers, wilderness etc. where anything falling out of the sky would be very unlikely to hit anyone.

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (1)

powerlord (28156) | about 5 months ago | (#47666337)

With the autonomous thing, they could also bring themselves in to the mechanic for checkups/tuneups/maintenance while you're at work (or over night?) etc.

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about 5 months ago | (#47666471)

That's okay - we can have a proper driving test, one which you don't necessarily pass first time!

Also, each flying car can be repelled from each other flying car, using a 3D radar system. A sort of magnetic field where the closer you get, the stronger the repelling force. That alone would prevent catastrophic collision.

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#47666067)

They happen to live two mountain ranges over and across a lake from me so the path to get there is rather circuitous.

Bet it's beautiful though. And with autonomous cars on the way, you can enjoy that view. Or (when they are good enough to really trust) you can read or watch a video.

Forget the flying car thing. It's not just safety issues, it's a really bad use of dwindling supplies of fossil fuel.

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (1)

blue9steel (2758287) | about 5 months ago | (#47666845)

Forget the flying car thing. It's not just safety issues, it's a really bad use of dwindling supplies of fossil fuel.

Which is why it will be powered by a small nuclear reactor!

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 5 months ago | (#47666965)

The problem is the weight of the reactor especially if the car needs to carry live humans inside. They had enough trouble with nuclear propulsion in the atmosphere with Project Pluto in the 1960s. The Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion in the 1950s tried to do this for bombers but even there the weight was an issue.

Re: The utility/need/desire exists (1)

MickLinux (579158) | about 5 months ago | (#47667859)

No, we just need to rethink our concept of what a 'live' human means. In the future, it can mean a human who makes a geiger counter jump off the table.

Really, though, the constraint ennvelopes for cars and planes is completely opposite, one from the other. What that means is that a flying car will perform neither job well, which means that even when (not if) invented, it won't sell. And it'll burn up those fossil fuels.

Cars have to be narrow. Planes have to be wide, for stability and lift. Cars have to be strong against head-on, rear-end, and (somewhat) t-bone crashes. Forplanes, that's utterly unimportant, but they need to be strong against vertical shocks, which doesn't matter for cars. Cars should be heavy planes should be light. Cars need to do well under low-maintenance conditions; planes that are under low-maintenance should be retired.

Re: The utility/need/desire exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666109)

All I read here is that you're complaining that life sucks if you live in the boondocks. Move.

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about 5 months ago | (#47666111)

I think you're a minority.
Most people live fairly close to cities.

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 5 months ago | (#47667647)

But outside the big cities, which comprise less than 2% of the land area of the US, there are lots of use cases for a flying car.

If there are "lots of use cases", why can't you provide any? The energy cost of flying to your parent's house by air far exceeds that of driving. And unless you fly regularly (more than once a month), there's little economic sense in purchasing maintaining an expensive flying car in exchange for a modest gain in convenience in travel to either your parent's place or an airport. Neither use case makes any sense unless you've money to burn or an extremely high personal level of impatience - fringe cases both.

The OP is correct, there doesn't appear to be many use cases that justify the additional TCO.

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (1)

Kohath (38547) | about 5 months ago | (#47667657)

Light rain and wind = thousands dead in flying car crashes

Re:The utility/need/desire exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47667793)

That's OK, the coming energy crunch will mean that one day, having parents that far away will be only for the rich.

Re:Not practical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47665937)

Several reasons

1) energy, the amount of energy it takes to make a 2 ton object 'fly' is MUCH higher than an object rolling along the ground
2) noise, all the flying cars so far are LOUD as in get out a set of ear plugs loud.
3) ease of use, Currently to fly it takes a good amount of practice and spacial reasoning. A car is much easier to get going. Roll forward, turn left or right, hit break if you get into it.
4) safety/privacy, people are wigging their shit over what are basically little helicopters flying around. What about when you get 1-2 tons flying around? This already happens daily but usually not by the guy down the street who thinks the loud motorcycle is the coolest thing on the planet.

Until you work out 1-3 no one will want them. 4 will work itself out if you can make them cheap to fly and not sound like; well an airplane, and fairly simple to operate.

Re:Not practical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666277)

1) energy - taking off is much more prohibitive but for medium -> long flights passenger miles per gallon approaches a car in some proposed vehicles. I'm thinking of the Moller Skycar (which I'm dubious about, given a long record of missed promises and deliver dates). Furthermore, you can take a straight line to your destination, this making your route more efficient. Finally, the time savings makes up for the increased energy costs since time driving is generally unproductive time.
2) Noise - it has been proposed that shopping centers and the like provide the take off and landing areas for flying cars, allowing for noise to be contained in specific locales
3) Flying cars must therefore be push button. That is, you punch in your address and the car does the rest.
4) Again, the Moller Skycrar proposes two rotors per nacelle, so if you lose one may not lose the other. Also, an aircraft parachute, like in a cirrus could help prevent major damage from a failure.

Re:Not practical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666047)

It won't happen until they make them crash proof. Can you imagine what a fender bender in the sky would be like? An out of control flying car crashing into your house or worse.

Re:Not practical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47669189)

traditional airplanes are more economical

Seriously? If a flying car was parked next to your place and you were offered the keys to it you'd actually tell them that? Riiiiiight.

Screw the cars (3, Interesting)

nightsky30 (3348843) | about 5 months ago | (#47665777)

I want my hoverboard!

d@%& flying cars?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47665805)

I don't want a d@%& flying car, I want a blessed flying car, d@%&&it.

Can we get over this already? (2)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about 5 months ago | (#47665811)

They're a long, long, looong way off. Let's focus on more realistic and practical things, like self making beds and toilets that put the seat down for women automatically. Now that would be progress.

Re: Can we get over this already? (1, Insightful)

Type44Q (1233630) | about 5 months ago | (#47665841)

I'd prefer a toilet seat that cleans itself after I piss all over it. :p

Re: Can we get over this already? (1)

Snufu (1049644) | about 5 months ago | (#47666021)

Won't someone PLEASE think of the robots?!

Re:Can we get over this already? (1)

jon3k (691256) | about 5 months ago | (#47667649)

You mean one that puts itself up after, right?

Re:Can we get over this already? (1)

cyberchondriac (456626) | about 5 months ago | (#47670741)

Actually, it was in jest. I think, technically, it's more work for a guy to fight gravity putting a seat up to piss, than it is for a gal to work with gravity and put the seat down. I honestly don't see why it's supposed to be strictly the man's responsibility, according to some. Though on principle, I myself put the seat and cover down just because, I dunno.. appearances, hygiene, whatever, though my wife has never actually complained if I forgot and left it up.

Re:Can we get over this already? (1)

grouchomarxist (127479) | about 5 months ago | (#47667835)

There are already toilets that put the seat down already. They're readily available in Japan and probably available at a dealer where ever you might be.

videos (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47665827)

Usually I just ignore the videos because they are a waste of bandwidth and tme. But this one, I was gonna check and see how long it is before I dismiss it. And so I clicked it, and it didn't show me a time remaining. I am disappointed in you, slashdot. Disappointed again.

A Matter Of Control (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 5 months ago | (#47665847)

How do you stop them quickly without too sudden a stop, like nose first in the ground, or into the next flying car? To me this seems like the biggest issue. Air vehicles are too hard to control compared to a ground vehicle using friction between the control surfaces. Maneuvering ise too complex for most people. Granted we can wait till someone extrapolates self driving cares into 3 dimensions and let them fly themselves. But that is a technological issue that we haven't got to quite yet. Maybe it won't happen until we have the whole gravity thing figured out and can manipulate that. But then again knowing us, before we can use it for good someone will figure out how to use the tech to negate gravity around earth entirely, and all the particles of the planet will drift apart. The next super weapon! Keep your sharks with lasers bwa ha ha ha ha... [cape pulled up over face, walks away]

Re:A Matter Of Control (2)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 5 months ago | (#47665915)

Self flying cars should be easier than self driving cars - heck, we already have them in commercial use. The user space is far larger and the location tolerance is much looser than driving on a road.

And if it's a flying CAR you can land outside of densely traveled/populated areas and drive to your final destination (say, Manhattan or LA).

A transcript would have been way better (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 5 months ago | (#47665883)

That was pretty painful

Re: A transcript would have been way better (1)

Roblimo (357) | about 5 months ago | (#47666315)

The transcript was late, but it's up now.

Weapons potential (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47665901)

A century ago there was a battle to regulate non-rail ground locomotion not dependent on muscular power. Liberty lost. Read "The Orphaned Right: The Right to Travel by Automobile 1890-1950" by Roger Roots.

Same as The... (1)

dcollins (135727) | about 5 months ago | (#47665931)

Flying cars are right in the same bin as:

(1) Colonization/living on other planets
(2) Uploading brains from bodies to computers
(3) War via robots resulting to no human deaths
(4) Technology giving the masses a life of leisure

Classic geek myths.

Re:Same as The... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666015)

You are a naysayer, they are dreams not myths

Re:Same as The... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47667193)


Re:Same as The... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#47667717)

(4) Technology giving the masses a life of leisure

It exists. It's called "unemployed and on unemployment". It seems we'll have to seriously consider it "normal" since it does not look like automation and offshoring are shrinking, and no major new source of employment is replacing it.

The right-wing will balk loudly, though, about "freeloaders". But they balk at ALL change; it's the very definition of "conservative" such that I am not being insulting here (unless reading the dictionary is offensive to some).

I want a flying train (1)

TsuruchiBrian (2731979) | about 5 months ago | (#47665993)

I want something that can fly but still be limited to a one dimensional track such that only forward and reverse are the only directions allowed. This way I can know that my kids are not deviating from the route to and from school, but still be in the air.

Re:I want a flying train (1)

anarcobra (1551067) | about 5 months ago | (#47666053)

That already exists. It's called a roller coaster. I've wanted my city to replace the trams and buses with roller coasters for years.

Right in there with the jetpacks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666007)

Answer: Helicopters (2)

Jack9 (11421) | about 5 months ago | (#47666065)

We have flying cars, they are called helicopters. They are dangerous and appear (to the public) to be notoriously hard to fly...partly because people keep using them as flying cars/platforms.

Re:Answer: Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666265)

We have flying cars, they are called helicopters. They are dangerous and appear (to the public) to be notoriously hard to fly...

In other words, we don't have flying cars. The whole point of a flying car is that it combines the ease-of-operation of a car with flight. That's why we call them "flying cars" and not "helicopters" or "small planes."

The idea is totally impractical, of course, which is why it's science fiction and not a product.

Re:Answer: Helicopters (3, Informative)

powerlord (28156) | about 5 months ago | (#47666397)

The idea is totally impractical, of course, which is why it's science fiction and not a product.

Kinda like the horseless carriage. I mean, its possible, but its completely impractical since you would need to stop and chop wood for the boiler every few miles, and the uneven roads will be much harder to navigate on.

Sometimes obstacles change with times, and what looks hard now will be less hard later.

Re: Answer: Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666835)

Considering the economics and geology of petroleum extraction, it's more likely that what is easy now (cars) is going to become hard in the future than the other way around.
Of course there always is the possibility of some miraculous breakthrough that will allow an even greater energy usage (or even just maintain the current one), but the low-hanging fruits on that tree have already been picked, and the ones that are still promising (thorium, hot and cold fusion) aren't exactly inspiring confidence in their success...

Re:Answer: Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47670919)

The idea is totally impractical, of course, which is why it's science fiction and not a product.

Kinda like the horseless carriage. I mean, its possible, but its completely impractical since you would need to stop and chop wood for the boiler every few miles, and the uneven roads will be much harder to navigate on.

Sometimes obstacles change with times, and what looks hard now will be less hard later.

Yes, exactly; that's why it's science fiction. It's a cool idea whose time has not yet come. That's what science fiction is.

Re:Answer: Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666319)

Don't be combative... Helicopters aren't a) roadable b) simple enough c) cheap enough d) small enough

Re: Answer: Helicopters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47668709)

Your first requirement, roadable + othervise acting as a helicopter makes it insamely more expensive, complex and useless.

Think of it as a helicopter constantly carrying a car with it (so enormous fuel consumption at around 300 litres/hour but payload limited to two persons due to the car - specs from memory of agusta-bell 412). Helicopter price and service scedule. On-road manueverability comparable to a car hauling a mid-size helicopter)

Re:Answer: Helicopters (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 5 months ago | (#47666493)

A flying car has to supplant the automobile as the primary mode of transportation in America in order to fufill the hopes made 50 years ago. The idea of a "flying car" is the same as the "horseless buggy" or the "electric car". Those were vehicles that replaced the "horse" or "gas car." (electric car not quite there yet) Currently I would say the electric car does not exist in the Sci-Fi sense. Instead we currently have electric sports cars and electric luxury cars. But not the electric car as promised by Sci-Fi.

It's all Dante's fault (1)

Drathos (1092) | about 5 months ago | (#47666087)

It's obviously because Dante wouldn't let some insane German scientist diddle his pennie..

Re:It's all Dante's fault (1)

captjc (453680) | about 5 months ago | (#47669387)

...and his friends, after hacking Dante's foot off.

Some people just can't throw their hat over the wall for the good of mankind.

Can it be completely automated (4, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | about 5 months ago | (#47666091)

I think this is tied somewhat to the issue of the issue of self-driving cars. Part of the problem with flying cars is the question of, who do we trust to fly them? What's the process of licensing people to drive/pilot these things? Do we trust people not to fly over protected airspace? Do we trust people not to fly into buildings? Along with everything else, driving/piloting a vehicle designed both for driving and flying might very well be more complicated than learning to drive and learning to fly combined.

However, if you can have self-driving cars, and you can make a self-flying driving car (including take-off and landing), then you could have the whole thing controlled by a computer guided system, adhering to restrictions to traffic and air traffic. Along with everything else, you could have restrictions that say, "When you're in NYC, the car knows that it needs to drive because airspace is restricted. Once you drive X miles outside the city, you can take to the air along certain restricted routes, following certain procedures." All of that could be controlled with computers, disallowing various kinds of abuses.

Of course, that assumes that we have sufficient systems for safe autonomous driving/flight. It also assumes that everything is coded well enough to prevent people from hacking the car to allow them to break the rules. It also assumed that people will be ok with being restricted and tracked. Finally, it assumes that, when you've put all these restrictions in place, you haven't made the idea so un-fun that people don't want a flying car anymore.

We already have that in hobby level drones. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47667249)

Granted we're heavily reliant on GPS (we need to replace that aging system) but you can right now for about $1k put a craft together that can go up, way point, have manual control, then release control and click the return to home button, and it will come back and land.

Re:Can it be completely automated (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#47667679)

For more populated areas, computer control would probably be necessary. Would it be perfect? No, but it only has to be comparable to road cars in terms safety. People may even accept a bit more general risk to have them.

If we keep worrying about hackers, we won't progress. The flying cars may need a "panic mode" that basically lets them hover until any navigation-related problem is resolved, perhaps gradually descending to the ground to a spot controlled by the driver (if VTOL, such as Puffin). This sub-system would be separate from the usual control system and based on more hacker-proof and heavily scrutinized code.

Yeah (1)

alphabet26 (534873) | about 5 months ago | (#47666115)

Fuck the flying cars, we have a tough time enough just getting electric cars on the road...

Reminded me of George Carlin...

"We're gonna go to Mars. And then of course we're gonna colonize deep space. With our microwave hot dogs and plastic vomit, fake dog shit and cinnamon dental floss, lemon-scented toilet paper and sneakers with lights in the heels. And all these other impressive things we've done down here. But let me ask you this: what are we gonna tell the intergalactic council of ministers the first time one of our teenage mothers throws their newborn baby into a dumpster? How are we gonna explain that to the space people? How are we gonna let them know that our ambassador was only late for the meeting because his breakfast was cold and he had to spend half an hour punching his wife around the kitchen? And what are they gonna think when they find out, its just a local custom, that over 80 million women in the Third world have had their clitorises forcibly removed in order to reduce their sexual pleasure so they won't cheat on their husbands? Can't you just sense how eager the rest of the universe is for us to show up?" - George Carlin, Complaints and Grievances

I'm not sure I want one (2)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about 5 months ago | (#47666161)

The reason I'd want a flying car is so I could avoid all the idiots by flying over them. It wouldn't be so much fun when the idiots have them and are flying around while talking on their phones! Yikes!!

back to the future (1)

Dorianny (1847922) | about 5 months ago | (#47666165)

The only "flying cars" possible today are airplane-automobile hybrids that can get neither the driving nor the flying right. In the 50's and 60's the promise of science seemed unlimited, discoveries that would lead to a entire new method of flying, not relying on lift and drag, seemed not only possible but just around the corner. 50+ years later we still don't have a quantum theory of gravity and the mystery has only deepened.

Be happy that we will at lease have... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666225)

...the McFly next year (self tying shoe that is). At least something predicted from back to the future will come to pass. Too bad Mr. Fusion and flying cars didn't make the cut. :)

Booth babes (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 5 months ago | (#47666241)

> in Detroit

Say what now?

Good job promoting it.

Progress (1)

Hillgiant (916436) | about 5 months ago | (#47666299)

No flying cars.

But we do have videos about how there are no flying cars on slashdot. That's worth something. Well, for very small values of "something", anyway.

Never. (1)

digitalPhant0m (1424687) | about 5 months ago | (#47666379)

Once a car gets wings it usually ceases to be a car and becomes an airplane.

Six Reasons (2)

Jodka (520060) | about 5 months ago | (#47666393)

Six reasons we do not have flying cars:

1. Unforgivingness: Run out of gas, stall, fail to perform scheduled maintenance? You plummet and die. Road vehicles are more forgiving of errors and faults.
2. Regulation: There is an overwhelming regulatory burden imposed by the FAA. This restricts R&D, commercialization and ownership.
3. Expertise: Piloting requires specialized skills and extensive training.
4. Expense: Flying vehicles are expensive.
5. Infrastructure: The air traffic control system can not handle ubiquitous flying vehicles. Take-off and landing zones are not ubiquitous. For short distances, it is inefficient to to the airport to fly to the next airport to drive to where you are going, Why not just drive to where you are going to start with? For longer distances, drive to the airport and take a plane. The flying car only makes sense if we put airports everywhere. Yes, VTOL would mitigate this.
6. Inherent inefficiency: Hauling your car around with you everywhere you fly? Carrying your airplane with you everywhere you drive? A combination car/plane of the future makes about as much sense as traveling with your car on a commercial passenger flight today.

You are stuck with #6; Flying cars might just be an inherently stupid idea. Other barriers can be overcome with technology and mass commercialization except for the FAA regulatory burden and restrictions.

Ubiquitous personal air transport makes more sense for short to medium distances if you do not try to make combination, flyable/roadable vehicle. As-the-crow-flies routes are way more efficient than road networks and with automated navigation and automated air-traffic control there would be no traffic jams in 3 dimensions. Automated VTOL would largely obviate road travel.

Re:Six Reasons (2)

Greyfox (87712) | about 5 months ago | (#47667085)

Of course, point 2 should to a large degree prevent point 1; you want to fly your shit in the USA, you have a maintenance logbook that is kept up to date and can be produced whenever your local FAA rep comes 'round asking for it. Of course, that's one of the reasons for point 4. You maintain your engines in part based on how many times they've been started. Due to this, it effectively costs my local dropzone $100 just to turn their plane on.

We do get a story every so often, of someone forgetting to put gas in their plane. This doesn't necessarily have to be an unforgiving situation if you keep your wits about you. Most planes don't plunge out of the sky the second their engines stop. Bob Hoover demonstrates [youtube.com] this quite effectively. If you're flying a gyrocopter, they can get down on autorotation. An ideal flying car would have one of these characteristics.

If you want a flying car now, go buy a small airplane -- you can get a used Cessna for about what I paid for my car. There are a number of ultralight possibilities, too. You'll still need to be cognizant of the FAA regulations governing your flight if you're in the USA, so you won't really be able to treat it like a flying car. But that's as close as you're likely to get for the next two or three decades.

Expense is the big one... (2)

trims (10010) | about 5 months ago | (#47669009)

Flying vehicles are expensive: to build, to operate, and to maintain. Probably close to an order of magnitude for each, though the last may be close to two magnitudes.

Cost per pound of cargo in an airborne vehicle is huge. Here's an example: the HondaJet runs around $5m. A comparable Honda Odyssy is $35k.

Flying is a significantly more energy-intensive operation than rolling along the surface. A cheap prop plane like a Cessna has an airspeed around 100mph, and gets 20mpg. The equivalent super-cheap subcompact doesn't have to worry about winds, and gets 40+ mpg. Turbofans (like the HondaJet) which you'd want on a "flying car" get 4x or worse gas mileage than a Cessna. VTOLs (whether helicopter or directed thrust) are getting 6x or worse gas mileage.

The vast majority of aircraft require HOURS of maintenance per hour of flight time. Even the small, simple stuff like Cessna are more than a 1:1 maintenance:use ratio. There's not really any way to avoid this, since flying is significantly more hard on the vehicle than driving. So, for each flight you take, you're going to have to pay several hundred dollars in maintenance fees.

Overall, even with some reasonable improvements and economies of scale, you're looking at a vehicle that costs 10x or more than an equivalent wheeled vehicle to start with, and has an annual operating cost around 100x.

Besides, we already have flying cars. They're called helicopters. Notice how the pricing on those has kept them from be adopted. There's no real way to make a flying car significantly cheaper. And you're still stuck with the 1-6 reasons above.

Asking where flying cars are is only slightly more inane than asking why we don't have personal teleporters, and about the same as asking why personal jetpacks aren't sitting in everyone's closet.


Did the would-be inventor catch Ebola? (0)

mi (197448) | about 5 months ago | (#47666401)

Had the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, or Nicola Tesla fallen to something like "How to live United" propaganda [unitedway.org] and gone to "help the poor", how much longer would it have taken for the affordable air-travel, mass-produced cars, and the numerous other wonders [activistpost.com] to appear?

Especially, if they traveled to the Third World and caught something nasty?

Thankfully, such "sacrifice" was not very popular 100 years ago. Unfortunately, it seems to be all the rage nowadays...

What is needed to make flying cars viable. (1)

aurizon (122550) | about 5 months ago | (#47666633)

1 The ability to park a car, high in the air, and not have it move a millimeter until desired and to consume no energy in that state.
2 the ability to fly at zero speed and maintain position and consume no energy
3 the ability to control the position and velocity of any flying car with precision, so you could have them fly in rows in different directions in the equivalent of lanes in the sky - OR, the ability to control the exact position and speed of a car, all the way down to parked in the air.
4 power used = function of speed, as it is with road cars.

Until we can do this, the idea of a huge flock of cars, all dependant on wings with lift to stay in the air or helicopter/gyrocopter blades to stay in the air is impossible. No self flying car could do it.
The ability to 'park' in the air and use zero power.

I recall the pulp magazines of the 30's and 40's with cities surrounded by enormous flocks of flying cars as a joke until we have full spatial control of position and velocity and zero energy lift to keep them up there

The FAA blocks them (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666691)

First, there are all the regulations governing development of any new production aircraft; It currently cost approx $50 million to get a small aircraft through the cert process. If a small company thinks it will sell 1000 of its shiny new flying cars it will have to add $50K to the pricetag of each just to cover these costs.

Second, there are all the regulations governing pilots; Getting a pilot's license costs thousands of dollars and takes many people over a year but that license can be taken away from you by the FAA (grounding both you and that flying car you payed too much for) if you suffer any of a myriad of health problems that nearly every human being will eventually suffer. (there's no equivalent national revocation of drivers licenses even though many people are killed every year in car crashes and small planes do not cause much more damage when they crash than cars (somewhat faster, but less dense))

Third, The FAA has become very confused; it thinks it's primarily there to support commercial aviation and that the airlines have an a priori right to the skies. The regulatory mechanisms of the FAA allow the only airline maker left in the US to self-certify many things (it can get its employees trained and certified as Designated Engineering Representatives, wh can then sign-off on things) which is something small companies cannot afford and probably contributed to batteries with fire problems getting deigned into their newest plane and a "fix" being implemented without a root cause being understood first. This same loophole is not so readily available to small plane makers because its very expensive for non-billion-dollar coprorations. The airspace is regulated in ways that favor the airlines, and in this mindset a bunch of flying cars just adds risks to the commercial people movers.

Fourth, the FAA, which is now so concentrated on high-end aviation, has little concern for the costs of its actions. It is currently debating requiring a new bit of avionica in all planes. The new devices will probably cost about $5K per plane which is affordable to an airline or a business exec with a Gulfstream and less so to a Flying Car owner. The actual cost of the instrument should probably be about $250 BUT it can only be made and sold by FAA approved corps and the design must be certified by the FAA - so the regulatory overhead costs and semi-monopoly effects kick-in.

When the Wright Brothers invented the first successful powered heavier-than-air plane, they were a couple of bicycle builders on a shoe-string budget (they would never have been certified to manufacture, never have gotten pilot licenses, and their planes would never have been certified). When their earliest competitors, like Curtiss, got into the market there were still NO regulations and NO government overhead. Even when Boeing got started in a barn, it faced NONE of the current regulations. Every significant aerospace firm in the US (except SpaceX which was founded by a billionaire who nearly went broke doing it, is only doing rockets, and is sort-of "sponsored" by NASA which needs it) got up-and-running BEFORE the FAA arose to squelch innovation and freedom. Had the FAA existed 100 years ago there would be no commercial aviation. The only aircraft would probably be giant one-time-use planes flown across the oceans on research missions by men trained and treated like astronauts and supported by 100K ground support people (think Saturn V, but in aviation). Giant, inefficient, government designed-and-owned-and-operated with no concern for sustainability, reusability, etc and no imagination for the idea that average people should be able to be involved in it.

As long as we have an FAA you can forget about anybody who is not rich having a flying car or a jetpack... and hoverboards are probably out too given the desperation with which the FAA is currently trying to spook the public (with fears of "peeping tom" drones) into letting it regulate ANYTHING (including model planes) operating all the way down to zero feet (WELL-below the "navigable airspace" they are currently charged with overseeing).

FAA is the big one. The other is liability. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 5 months ago | (#47667571)

The FAA regulations are the biggest factor.

The next is liability litigation. Try to run a company when one suit from one crash (even if it's not your fault) might drain your entire investment and bankrupt you. Try to get insurance in the same situation.

Either alone might make it hard. Both together have essentially frozen designs for private aircraft for over half a century and nearly destroyed civil aviation.

obligatory clerks video (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666715)


The problems are the war on drugs and refugees. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47666819)

If it was easier to cross borders, more people would do it.

The governments don't want that.

Have you people ever heard of QuadCopters? (1)

MindPrison (864299) | about 5 months ago | (#47666827)

I'm a big Quad Copter fan myself, and I can tell you that these are SUPER safe to fly today, WAY safer than ANY helicopter or airplane.

Equipped with stabilizing 6 axis sensor and hefty gyros, combined with GPS technology, these things are a WALK in the park to fly. Check this video out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] . As you can see, these things are stable as they can get. Imagine a REAL LIFE size of the same thing, no sweat at all, the problem is elsewhere.

We can have these life-size quadcopters tomorrow if you like, the problem isn't the technology...it's right amongst us everywhere, but I suspect the military doesn't like the idea of personal quadcopter mobiles, nor does the gov. And the infrastructural problems we would have if these became legal tomorrow? Oh boy, don't even go there. So don't blame technology, we HAVE these things right now! Blame the slow development on transportation laws, airspace, aero planning, military and much more that I don't even know anything about, all these issues prevents us from having the flying car today!

Re:Have you people ever heard of QuadCopters? (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about 5 months ago | (#47667047)

and much more that I don't even know anything about

...including the problems of scale in aircraft design.

Uber (1)

Marrow (195242) | about 5 months ago | (#47666951)

Flying Cars. Uber. Flying Cars. UBER! Hmm....

Flying cars. HEH! (1)

Chas (5144) | about 5 months ago | (#47666967)

Most humans can barely control automobiles that are limited to TWO dimensions.
And we still have millions of accidents and tens of thousands of fatalities every year.
Add a vertical dimension and watch statistics skyrocket (no pun intended).

No Space Drive=no flying car. (0)

anwyn (266338) | about 5 months ago | (#47667141)

Flying cars are expensive because just keeping them statically up requires pushing a huge amount of stuff downward to overcome gravity. Action reaction.

UFO have been observed to statically hover without pushing a lot of stuff downward. They have also been observed to accelerate at huge rates, without pushing a lot of stuff in the opposite direction. The UFOs in short, have a space drive.

Our current science has no idea how to produce a space drive. That is, accelerate without moving a lot of stuff in the opposite direction. Or overcome gravity without moving a lot of stuff in the downward direction.

The USA and other major governments is obstructing research into UFO's space drives by promoting the fiction that UFOs don't exist.

You can not have your flying car until you make major governments tell the truth.

I had a flying car... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47667171)

It was a 1962 Buick, took it flying several times. It was a short flight though, no wings.

For heavens sake (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47668009)

Look at how people act on the ROADS! You want them in the SKY?

Srsly? People can't drive cars at 2x bicycle (1)

jpellino (202698) | about 5 months ago | (#47668095)

... speeds without hilarity ensuing. They already have gravity HELPING them stick to the ground, with giant bright lines and concrete barriers and street lights and signs everywhere reminding them not to be jackasses. And still 30,000 people die this way in the US alone every year. What on earth makes anyone think millions of people will be better trying to do this in mid-air at twice the speed with no barriers, lines, lights or sticky-safe gravity? "But air travel is much safer" - sure, with two highly-trained professionals at the yoke, with miles of horizontal separation and thousands of feet of vertical separation with dozens of highly-trained professionals advising them on how to avoid the next perfectly natural thing that might drop them and their hundred+ passengers out of the sky. There are 600K +/- private pilots in the US. There are 200M +/- licensed drivers. I love bopping around in a Skylane as much as the next person, but do I want even 10x more private pilots / planes in the skies? Heck no!

Simple: Stupid ideas remain stupid (2)

gweihir (88907) | about 5 months ago | (#47668103)

Flying cards are energetically stupid, safety-wise stupid and traffic-capacity-wise stupid. That means they may not ever happen except for meaningless stunts. Those that want them are like little children crying "I want! I want! I want!" all over without realizing that this physical reality has limits. Really pathetic.

Re: Simple: Stupid ideas remain stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47668617)

Ambulance, firefighters, police.

Re: Simple: Stupid ideas remain stupid (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 5 months ago | (#47669467)

Ever heard of helicopters? Apparently not.

Wait, we do have flying cars (1)

Jesrad (716567) | about 5 months ago | (#47669113)

They're called ultralights. Same price range (well, sorta, you may have to double or triple the tag), same kind of performance and mileage.

What's needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47669135)

I haven't read the comments before posting this list of required technology.

High-energy fuel cells/nuclear mini-reactor: There's been very little effort in fuel cells and none in making reactors smaller and safer. In addition to the technology, there must also be the infrastructure: Modular power-trains (see 'Speed racer') and re-fueling stations.

By-the-numbers flying: This was close in the 1990's with computerized auto-pilot and navigation. The advent of driver-less cars now makes this totally feasible.

Safety features: Parachutes for planes have been around for a few decades and can be adapted to cars. It means that sky-highways must be sufficiently high for the parachute to release and open. Also cars on lower sky-highways must be equipped to avoid a falling object.

Cost: The cost of buying and operating a plane is prohibitive; as are the licensing requirements and the voluminous flight rules. An additional problem being that a plane cannot be stored in the city whereas a car can. These operational requirements must be eliminated so a flying car can be used as quickly and cheaply as a traditional car.

Oh BOY where to start? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47669307)

I don't even care so much about the tech behind it, I know that is complex as hell, and I have seen many of the prototypes for flying cars. We simply do not have the power storage for something we are describing. (I mean good flying cars, not something you have to impart a lot of momentum in to in order to make it take-off, AKA a PLANE)
Oh, no, let us forget that entirely.

Instead, let us focus on the most important part of flying cars: people.
People are horribly bad at driving cars already.
They will rush past people if they can, they won't signal, they will allow themselves to be distracted.
Do you SERIOUSLY want this AVERAGE occurrence to be happening with FLYING VEHICLES?
Holy SHIT that would be a bad idea. Now even relatively safe places would become potential crash sites.
Enjoying a little relaxing time out the back garden, in comes an SUV with some ignorant prick who was on his phone.

I will happily accept flying cars when we get true 3D cities with plenty of safety between the cars and actual people, and you know, actual infrastructure for them.
Right now our pitiful examples we call cities aren't even remotely capable of accepting flying cars.
And more to the point, they wouldn't even be easy to upgrade to accept them, what with non-standard building designs and spacing.
And what point is there in having flying cars when there is no parking or facilities ABOVE ground?
You still, in the end, only have a case where you will need to come back down to the ground, gimping them back to the 2.5D cities we have now.
The ground is a choke point we need to eliminate before we can even begin to consider these vehicles.
But we simple don't have the materials to do this part of it, either.
We are speaking a society that has reached space mining ages. We are still on the pre-scouting stages of space mining. Maybe 50 years down the line.

Sure, we can let people fly anywhere, but that is going to cause even more problems than all of the ones mentioned above, as well as the technical hurdles to making them!

Use case (1)

arnero (3539079) | about 5 months ago | (#47669311)

For the use case with the mountain and the lake in the way of the car: Why no use a plane? Lots of roads a wide enough for a real plane. I think with self driving cars and mandatory apps for the rest it should allow to dynamically clear roads of cars. The the pilot of the plane pays the drivers of the cars some compensation and: Win-Win. The other use case is traffic jam or an obstacle on the road. For this the cars only need to hop to the next free road. They need not to be efficient.

Maybe later (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47670183)

As a mechanical engineer I predict that three things will need to happen before they ever become a thing, or even close to as affordable as a regular car.

First, a better power source. Maybe a new battery that can hold an absurdly large amount of energy. Unless you want to go speeding down the road at airplane takeoff speeds (doubt it) it is going to take a lot of energy to get you off the ground while stationary, or levitate. If you think your current vehicle has bad gas mileage you won't want to see the gas mileage on one of these things if you try to fuel it with gasoline.

Second, a propulsion method that doesn't involve third degree burns for the people behind you, giant headphones to keep you from losing your hearing because of the noise, or enormous wind being produced below you. I mean it works for helicopters, but I find it unlikely that it will work with cars. Helicopters have huge blades and have quite a large footprint if you tried to drive one down the road. I suppose you could use a turbine-like wind force but that will be real fun when random things start getting sucked through your turbine. I think we will have to perfect another form of propulsion to make flying/hovering cars viable. Maybe some kind of magnetic force, or the microwave drives they have recently proved work to some extent.

And lastly we would have to find a way to produce all of this technology at an affordable level.

We do have flying cars, but... (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about 5 months ago | (#47670347)

They are too expensive for average people. AND They have severe limitations that make them not practical.

There are basically two versions I have seen: A) Vertical take off devices that are basically the equivalent of helicopters. In fact, you might consider a Helicopter to BE a flying car, if you are rich enough to own one. But there are smaller things that don't look like helicopters and can easily fit in a typical driveway. Their practical limitations are: 1) expense 2) limited range, 3) fuel is not gasoline, and 4) takes a lot of training to operate.

The second version I have seen is B) Cars with wheels that can deploy a wing, and with a run-way take off. Most of these are very expensive (one exception below), and take a lot of training to operate. The single exception is the powered parachute wing vehicles. They are relatively cheap little frame cars with a big fan pushing them. Once they get up to speed, they release a parachute, which forms a wing, and effectively they become an ultra-light airplane. The problems with these devices are very slow speeds - they tend to max out at about 35 mph. You need special training, though not quite as much as a full airplane or helicopter device. They also do not fly very high, can't fly at night,

The good news: 1) Computers may solve the training problem. We make software that we can trust to take off and land, we might be able to get into these devices safely.

2) New modern materials may bring the price down.

3) If they become more popular, then the fuel problem will not matter, whatever we decide to use will become as easy to find as gasoline.

That said, range, and speed problems are not likely to be easily overcome. They need dramatically improved engines.

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