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

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the fly-me-to-the-moon dept.

Sci-Fi 66

Yesterday we ran Part One of this two-part video. This is part two. To recap yesterday's text introduction: 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. As it turns out, the reality of situation is far less enticing than the dream -- but new technologies offer a glimmer of hope. (Alternate Video Link)

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Bad News, kids! (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673125)

We have flying cars. They care called 'helicopters'. Widely used, widely available, you probably don't own and/or can't afford one.

As with so much of a certain genre of science fiction, the 'flying car' is more a fiction about how 'the future' would exist as though post WWII advances in the American middle class were going to continue following their upward trajectory all the way to personal flying cars 4 hour workdays.

Instead, availability of things (like basically anything based on transistors) that have become radically cheaper is broader than most would have imagined (Dear ENIAC design team, how probable do you think it is that people who lack clean water or adequate food will be using vastly more powerful computers to send text messages to one another in less than a century?); but 'science fiction' that requires simply owning a big enough slice of the pie to implement with today's, or yesterday's, technology? Probably more distant now than it was then.

Supplant Niche (2)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673263)

Flying Car != car that flies. Flying car is a vehicle that flies that supplants the automobile as the primary mode of transportation. Think cell phones replacing telephones, cars replacing horses, or personal computers replacing typewriters. The helicopter hasn't replaces the car. It isn't what these people are talking about.

Re: Supplant Niche (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47673377)

In my life, the metro has replaced the car. Why would I need it to fly?

Nice and Pliant (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a month and a half ago | (#47674105)

I live 300 road miles from the nearest city of with enough resources to be worth visiting. I could actually use a flying car. Air distance is much less than the road distance, for one thing, and for another, max legal road speed is pitiful - 70 to 75 mph. Yet Amazon and the occasional other net vendor pretty much fulfill all our material needs. The big deal when we take a trip these days (usually medically related now) is access to a spectrum of decent restaurant choices.

However, all things considered, I'd rather have a couple of robots. A household one, basically a full featured maid, and another for walking a dog, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, etc.

I expect to get them well before I get a flying car, too, unless someone discovers a low-power, very safe, antigravity system in the interim. Otherwise, it's just not energy efficient.

Re: Supplant Niche (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47675269)

Yeah... you live in a densely populated area that has that. Congratu-fuckin-lations. You've earned your tree hugging douche badge.

What about the other 95% of the population that has to travel short-long distances regularly? 30 minute commute to/from work? Those that could use the bus but choose not too?

Re: Supplant Niche (1)

dave420 (699308) | about a month and a half ago | (#47675891)

There are public transport systems which can easily do that, and don't require densely-populated areas in order to function. Where I live you can catch a tram on the street which can take you directly to neighbouring cities/towns/villages, or to the train station to other cities/countries. Don't confuse all public transport with your public transport.

Re:Supplant Niche (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47673485)

A cell phone was a cell phone the moment it made the first call, not after people stopped using payphones.

Re:Supplant Niche (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a month and a half ago | (#47677175)

That is missing the point. At one time we lived in a world where people wondered when we would have personal communicators like in star trek. The fact that expensive cellphones existed that fit in brief case was not relavant. Pagers came closer to the dream. The dream was fufilled with those small flip phones. The artical could of easily been about why we don't have electric cars yet. Yes Tesla is building electric cars and yes electric car prototypes existed sinse the beginning of car design. But that is not the point. 99% of the worlds still uses fossil fuels. When do the masses get the electric car they were promissed in science fiction?

Re:Supplant Niche (1)

sound+vision (884283) | about a month and a half ago | (#47674177)

A lot of the flying car prototypes that have been produced, especially in the era when the term was most relevant, were quite literally "flying cars" or "cars that fly", or whichever other way you prefer to phrase it. For example:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F... [wikipedia.org]

Besides the technical challenges of making a vehicle that is suitable for both everyday road use and use in the air - some of which are simply inherent to the concept (like the compromise between building a strong/safe car and a light aircraft, and aerodynamics) - there are also the human problems of having the average person flying around populated areas daily while applying makeup, texting, etc. To even attempt having safe skies we'd have to put all the population through pilot school which requires hundreds of hours of flight with an instructor (expensive), in addition to the classes which deal with concepts like drag, lift, stall speed, bank angles, fuel/air mixture... not hard stuff, but a significant portion of the population wouldn't get it. Then, when the pilots get up there, they won't be flying in the mostly-empty skies we currently have. They'll be experiencing airborne rush hour as 3 million people take off and go to work. But before we get to that point, every home and business will need to find space to build a runway and possibly a hangar. Helipads would be somewhat easier to build everywhere, but you have already said helicopters need not apply.
Air transport for daily, local use is impractical, point blank. It's useful for longer and more infrequent trips. For even longer and even more infrequent trips, there's space travel. For the most local and shortest trips (think bathroom, fridge) the preferred method will always be walking. The type of transportation must be tailored to the needs. People do not need to fly regularly.

Whatever we find to replace the automobile (if anything) won't be along the lines of flying cars. More likely is an automated system of personal transporters, something like today's self-driving cars coupled with enhanced roads that provide active laser or radio "guideposts" so the road is more like a set of tracks than a free-for-all where cars have free motion. Or, we could go to real tracks and have everyone ride mass transit. Both of these options are much safer than flying-cars. Which one actually happens depends on what society will more readily adapt to. "None of the above" is also a very likely option - if we can get cars off of oil before it busts, I could easily see electric cars or similar being the norm for the next few centuries.

Re:Supplant Niche (1)

sound+vision (884283) | about a month and a half ago | (#47675081)

Shamelessly copying another post to expand on how aircraft and road car designs are difficult to reconcile:

"A good car has down force and sticks to the road. A good plane does the opposite. I was at a flight museum that had a flying car on display and it was described as something like a "Mediocre car, and mediocre plane" Not that it's impossible, but the most basic attributes of a plane and car are contradictory."

Re:Supplant Niche (1)

Rei (128717) | about a month and a half ago | (#47688253)

Disagree. A good car doesn't have down force (beyond gravity), downforce means aerodynamic drag, a good car should rely only on the force of gravity for its grip. The things that help a plane also make a car more fuel efficient - streamlining and lightweight construction. Cars have slightly different streamlining reqs due to operating near the ground, but the general principles are the same. Of course you've got wheels out there, but so do many light planes. Lightweight construction is often described as the opposite of crash safety, which is very important in cars, but with foam core composites you can have both.

As for the GP's comments: I don't think anyone really expects your average driver of a flying car to be behind the stick controlling flight surfaces; I think most people envision something more like a good quadcopter where everything is managed for you by control software that maintains position and attitude (despite changes in balance, wind, etc) or even fly preset routes / automated traffic management. People don't envision runways, they envision VTOL. They envision not a helicopter (non-roadworthy, giant exposed spinning prop), but something roadworthy with nacelles.

One big former problem with flying cars was the weight, size, cost and complexity of the sort of high power engines you needed for them, and if you needed multiple engines (quadcopter-style), then all the more problem. It pretty much ensured that your flying car would have a supercar price tag. But electrification of transportation looks to be solving that one - high power outrunner electric motors are very simple and have just ridiculous power to weight ratios. Battery energy density is still a problem (and would be even more of a problem if your lifting surface area is limited and you lose a little efficiency to your prop geometry), but it's constantly improving, the percentage rate of growth on electric passenger airplanes is even faster than that of electric cars (although starting from a much smaller starting point, mind you).

No, I'm not saying I envision the world suddenly switching over to flying cars - far from it. I'm just pointing out that the problems aren't as intractable as folk often make them out to be.

Re:Supplant Niche (1)

Rei (128717) | about a month and a half ago | (#47688269)

Also, I'll add that you missed the obvious criticism of flying cars - the "dropping out of the sky upon failure" one ;) Any realistic "flying car" is going to have to have some really dang good failsafe mechanisms not only to protect its occupants in such a case, but people on the ground as well.

Re:Bad News, kids! (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673329)

Helicopters are good, but I personally think that powered parachutes are a better fit for the concept of a flying car.

1) They are cheap - $5-10 thousand dollars. 2) They take a lot less training (Sport pilot license takes only about 12 hours, and you can have a passenger.), as opposed to 35+ hours.

Their main problem is there low speed, 35 mph on the ground or the air, and the fact that you really shouldn't drive or fly them at night (without a better license) and you can't fly them very high.

Also, they basically can carry two normal sized people (or one American sized person.)

Flock of Shutes (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673491)

How do I move my furniture accross town in a parachute?... Wait nevermind I can see it now. A flock of shutes attached to a bed, dresser, and flatscreen. All attached with rope to a drone pulling things along.

Re:Flock of Shutes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47673651)

Flock of Shutes?

I loved those guys in the 80's!

As a private pilot... (2)

surfdaddy (930829) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673163)

...I can tell you that there are a myriad of problems here. It's not that easy to build an aircraft that is rugged for road use. Flying is particularly unforgiving of mistakes versus driving (think of all the idiot drivers out there). And the regulatory environment is hideously complex and expensive. Finally, think of all the traffic and fatalities with collisions if there were truly any significant number of "cars" commuting in the air. I just don't see it happening in any easy way.

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673195)

Flying is particularly unforgiving of mistakes versus driving (think of all the idiot drivers out there)

This is my hang up as well.

Most people with driver's licenses aren't properly trained, and thus can't be trusted to successfully operate a vehicle in two dimensions - and someone wants to give them a third? Madness.

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

DShard (159067) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673281)

I'm not a pilot. My argument against them, when I grew out of my teen fantasy world, was always "What the hell am I going to do 1000 feet in the air when my gas runs out?" The failure mode of a car is pull it to the side of the road and put your hazard lights on. The failure mode to a flying car is to crash it into the ground. This of course convinces absolutely no one who was enthusiastic about the idea that you should, for the sake of safety, avoid crossing underneath skyways.

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

sound+vision (884283) | about a month and a half ago | (#47675039)

IANAPilot but I did complete most of the requirements for a single-engine license (many hours in the air as co-pilot).
Running out of fuel is actually one of the best "failure modes" you can hope to happen in an aircraft. So are other engine-related problems. If your engine stops, the plane doesn't fall down, it becomes a (rather poor) glider. You do need to keep steadily descending so you don't go into an aerodynamic stall which will drop the plane - but if there is a field or other area nearby suitable to land, you can certainly attempt a landing.

The failures you really don't want to have are things like the wings or tail coming off, or losing control of the alerons - that will drop you like a rock.

Re:As a private pilot... (2, Informative)

timeOday (582209) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673339)

Surely a big part of the Flying Car Dream is making them safe enough for everybody to operate - which is to say, highly automated.

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673457)

Surely a big part of the Flying Car Dream is making them safe enough for everybody to operate - which is to say, highly automated.

There won't be such a thing as a flying car that's safe enough for everybody to operate, until after somebody invents some form of levitating propulsion that requires no fuel. OR we require everyone who wants a license to go through a very, very strict training program, probably re-upping every few years (like pilots have to do).

Quick, somebody clone Nikola Tesla!

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673649)

until after somebody invents some form of levitating propulsion that requires no fuel

If only there was some kind of balloon like device to raise our buoyancy so we could float in the air.

Gasbag (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a month and a half ago | (#47674163)

...and If only we had envelopes that would hold such a light gas without leaking it the heck out through every surface, or otherwise leak away the characteristic (heat) that makes it light... and if only such a technology didn't require such a large envelope as to function as a highly effective sail in any high prevailing wind such that it would take a huge amount of energy to counter said impetus... and if only we had a place to store such a large envelope... and if only such a device wouldn't cost seven figures... and if only there was a place available to land such things at your desired destination...

Yes, I believe you're on the right track. I'll start buying H and He futures immediately, and subscribe to your newsletter as well. Thank you!

Re:Gasbag (1)

Sperbels (1008585) | about a month and a half ago | (#47674705)

I didn't say it was practical. Taken in context, I was merely saying we have flying devices that don't plummet to the ground when they run out of gas.

Re:Gasbag (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a month and a half ago | (#47675019)

I was merely saying we have flying devices that don't plummet to the ground when they run out of gas.

Sure they do. :)

Re:Gasbag (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a month and a half ago | (#47676941)

OH, the humanity!!!!

Too soon?

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a month and a half ago | (#47676949)

Dude.

Rigid airships FTW!

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673689)

How do you figure? There's no reason, for example, an aircraft couldn't say, "our destination is over the ocean, but we don't have enough fuel for that, so I'm stopping for gas now..." It would be like riding a horse, if you ask it to walk into a wall, it just looks at you funny.

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a month and a half ago | (#47676907)

How do you figure?

Most people aren't pilots; in that, they aren't trained to do things like walkarounds of their vehicles before every trip, or calculate and ensure the amount of fuel they're going to need for their journey.

seriously, look at the way people operate their cars in two dimensions - do you really think it's a good idea to let those same morons drive in the same moronic fashion, but over your head?

There's no reason, for example, an aircraft couldn't say, "our destination is over the ocean, but we don't have enough fuel for that, so I'm stopping for gas now..." It would be like riding a horse, if you ask it to walk into a wall, it just looks at you funny.

That makes absolutely no sense, and I fail to see what relevance it has to my comment.

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

Rei (128717) | about a month and a half ago | (#47688303)

That makes absolutely no sense, and I fail to see what relevance it has to my comment.

It makes perfect sense, so you clearly have no conception of what the person is proposing.

You're talking about flying where someone holds onto a stick and manipulates control surfaces, They're talking about flying where they punch in "123 Maple Street" and the computer flies them there. One could of course allow both modes of flight, but the latter is what most people envision (or at least what I thought most people envision) when they hear "flying car".

Beyond that, I would like to add that while flying introduces new risks for manual piloting, it also removes a lot of them. Both commercial pilots and long-haul truckers in remote locations have similar roles in terms of spacing between vehicles and time behind the wheel, but only one's job is easy enough that they can have an autopilot do it for them for 90% of the trip. Yeah, someone cruising at 20.000 feet might be doing their makeup or texting on their phone, but at least they're not going to hit a tree while doing it.

(and yes, I know that if you replace all cars with planes, the skies get a lot more crowded, which is why I compared to a remote-location trucker, just to point out that the basic situation is easier in 3 dimensions where one's "lane" is much wider, there are no ground obstacles to hit, no hills, no bends in the road, etc, and traffic is split up among many well-spaced layers that are easy for a plane to maintain... no, millions of drivers cannot fit into our ATC system as-is, and I'm not claiming that, it requires a new system with greater automation)

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

tibit (1762298) | about a month and a half ago | (#47677717)

Quick, somebody clone Nikola Tesla!

I don't want someone, who later in life didn't seem to grasp basic experimental evidence before him, to have anything to do with designing, well, anything.

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a month and a half ago | (#47678169)

Quick, somebody clone Nikola Tesla!

I don't want someone, who later in life didn't seem to grasp basic experimental evidence before him, to have anything to do with designing, well, anything.

Well, bad news then - that man designed a lot of the technology that you're using right this second (alternating current, for example), and developed the concept for technologies that are just now becoming feasible (like the internet and wireless charging).

Personally, I think you're just trolling with this comment.

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

tibit (1762298) | about a month and a half ago | (#47679697)

No. The guy was a lunatic. Sure, he came up with a bunch of useful stuff, but the wireless charging we have now has nothing to do whatsoever with what Tesla envisioned. It is very unfortunate that the two are denoted using the similar words, because they are far from the same. The wireless charging we have now works like an air gap in a transformer core. That effect was known well before Tesla. OTOH, his wireless energy transfer ideas would have only worked in some alternative universe with different laws of Nature. It was total lunacy.

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a month and a half ago | (#47680227)

No. The guy was a lunatic. Sure, he came up with a bunch of useful stuff,

So, still a greater contributor to society than this particular detractor (that would be you).

That's all I needed to hear.

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

Rei (128717) | about a month and a half ago | (#47688363)

Tilbit is absolutely correct, though. Nicholai Tesla did some great work, mainly in his early years, but he increasingly started making claims without any serious experimental or theoretical backing whatsoever to drum up public interest, many of which are in complete violations of the laws of physics. A lot of his claims were based on "evidence" along the lines of "It was 30 degrees yesterday and it's 40 degrees today, therefore next year Earth will be vaporized." And in a lot of cases he appears to have outright just made stuff up.

This isn't to diminish his earlier work. He was an excellent tinkerer and ran across some really useful concepts and worked out equations to describe and utilize them. But he increasingly abandoned that for hype as time went on.

Re:As a private pilot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47673591)

But of course if we have that level of automation, your car could be even more easily automated and you could cruise the highway 5 feet behind the car in front of you. Which multiplies the capacity of the roads WITHOUT flying in the air.

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673765)

you could cruise the highway 5 feet behind the car in front of you.

The main benefit of flying transportation is to bypass the congestion on the surface of the earth. (You could achieve most of the same practical benefits by digging tunnels everywhere, but nobody knows how to do it cheaply and the scenery is no good.)

As a passenger... (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a month and a half ago | (#47674243)

...and the ground is very unstable in many areas, not to mention under water.

Another benefit of flying is straight line transport. Roads -- particularly around here --- add huge distances to any trip because you can't go directly to one's destination, but instead, must go waaaaaay around to get there.

The best solution is actually monorails. There is no need for them to take up much ground other than a post every so often, they don't disturb the greenery or the wildlife or the settlements, they can mostly ignore terrain, they can go whiz-bang fast, they can never hit cows or cars or people (well, REALLY stupid people they might hit, but I see that as a feature, not a bug), properly built monorails can't be snowed in or under, the scenery is better than either aircraft (too high) or car/train/bus (too low) they're quieter than trains by far, the ride is better, elevation means better radio coverage for cell or whatever, two tracks for bidirectional operations can be hung from single poles, thereby taking no extra right of way.

Also, they're hella cool.

Too bad the government hasn't enough sense to Manhattan project a bunch of 'em. Sure rather pay for that than yet another bombing of brownish people with funny beliefs and (coincidence only, of course) oil and other natural resources.

Re:As a passenger... (1)

Rei (128717) | about a month and a half ago | (#47688367)

The best solution is actually monorails.

Were you sent here by the devil???

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

Twinbee (767046) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673251)

Noise and battery capacity are far bigger problems. We can have a proper driving test and it won't be trivial to pass. Worst comes to worst, AI can control the car.

But even without AI control, 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:As a private pilot... (2)

AaronLS (1804210) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673257)

A good car has down force and sticks to the road. A good plane does the opposite. I was at a flight museum that had a flying car on display and it was described as something like a "Mediocre car, and mediocre plane" Not that it's impossible, but the most basic attributes of a plane and car are contradictory.

Re:As a private pilot... (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673343)

Unforgiving of mistakes should vanish in less than 10 years - autopilots keep getting better and they can already take off and land.

I always think the real problems is speed/range. To get any reasonable amount of power for either speed or range, it costs a lot of money AND you need to carry so much fuel that the aircraft starts looking more and more like a helicopter.

New Record Every Day (2)

MRe_nl (306212) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673189)

Number of fatal traffic-accidents soars
As flying cars take off.

AC come, AC go, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47673893)

Burma Shave

Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47673203)

Most people can't park right and they want to fly? Really?

Always has been a silly concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47673239)

As the private pilot points out, there are numerous issues here. The two biggest drawbacks in my eyes are firstly, too many morons clogging up the skies who already cannot navigate in two dimensions, and perhaps a bit more subtle... if you have a vehicle that can fly like an eagle - why in your right mind would you ever want to waste part of your life driving it on a road? It's all complete madness.

Re:Always has been a silly concept (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673443)

Reasons to drive a flying car:

1) Restricted Air Space. "Too many morons" only applies in/near cities. So you fly in the open areas, drive in the cities. I could easily see people flying the huge distance from Dallas to Houston, but having to ground yourself within city limits.

2) Flying could (in some scenarios) cost too much fuel or not work if you load up the vehicle. So you fly out to the home electronics store, but have to drive home once you tie your your big screen TV the roof.

3) Flying conditions. Specifically, say your vehicle is not rated for night flying. So you fly during the day, drive at night. Or perhaps a little bit of rain could do the trick. This particular scenario works now for the powered parachute vehicles that frankly are almost a flying car (main problem with them is the low speed - 35 mph on the ground or the air). You can't fly that thing in bad weather, but you can drive it home (granted you will get wet.)

We have lots of flying cars now. (1)

Animats (122034) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673253)

Flying cars work just fine. They're called quadcopters. They're just not for people. Like space travel. The future belongs to robots.

Re:We have lots of flying cars now. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47673637)

So, the future could be ours right now if we just surrender our pitiful meatbags and upload our minds into a computer?

Flying cars via quadcopter, interstellar space travel, bitpr0n jacked straight into our consciousness? Who wouldn't drop their body into a wood chipper in order to get that?

no flying cars is a good thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47673255)

Rubber tires on cement roads has significantly less friction than wings. Consequently, ground based cars are several times more efficient at using hydrocarbon fuel than airplanes. Cars can also be made out of cheaper materials, and use less dense energy sources, such as lithium ion batteries.

Think of the oil consumption if everyone drove a flying car.

Re:no flying cars is a good thing (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a month and a half ago | (#47675229)

No, tires have more friction than air. And airplanes actually get pretty good fuel economy for larger models, when you divide by the number of passengers. The problem with airplanes isn't friction, it's the fact that they're fighting against gravity, and cars aren't.

I for one am glad we don't have flying cars. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47673291)

People are bad enough driving in on two axes, do we really want to add a third?

Re:I for one am glad we don't have flying cars. (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a month and a half ago | (#47674273)

People are bad enough driving in on two axes, do we really want to add a third?

Well, you should see me driving two chainsaws. Keep your distance, though.

Two categories of future tech (4, Interesting)

goodmanj (234846) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673337)

The dreams of golden age science fiction came in two varieties: technologies that require massive amounts of energy and power (jetpacks, flying cars, space colonies) and technologies that require incredible control of matter on the microscopic and atomic scale (electronics, biochemistry, etc.) We've mostly failed to make progress in the first category, but we've surpassed the wildest dreams of every 1950s sci-fi author in the second.

Re:Two categories of future tech (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about a month and a half ago | (#47674861)

Have we really surpassed SiFi expectations? We don't have humanoid robots, intelligent computers, or unlimited longevity. We haven't cured cancer. Our computers have lots of "flops" and "gigabytes" but they don't do nearly as much as was expected in the 50s. We have moderately stronger materials, but nothing really amazing compared to 50's tech. (Ultra-strong metallic whiskers have been known for a long time). We don't have 3-d projectors in common use, and we can't 3d print our food. (mostly)

Communication is better than I think most people expected and the ubiquitousness of the internet is well beyond what was imagined.

What have we done that is so amazing - to a 1950s audience that is.

Of course science fiction is not really a good guide to the future, the writers are often not experts at what is technologically possible.

Re:Two categories of future tech (1)

goodmanj (234846) | about a month and a half ago | (#47674929)

I deliberately left out things that are impossible, useless, or poorly defined. I suspect most of the items you mention are in this third category, but time will tell.

Re:Two categories of future tech (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a month and a half ago | (#47675247)

Yep, basically the only thing where we really excelled was in communications technology. People in the 50s barely imagined the level of communications we have today.

Everything else has been underwhelming.

Re:Two categories of future tech (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a month and a half ago | (#47675243)

Space colonies don't require that much energy; they just require an up-front investment to send the necessary infrastructure up to space on rockets. Once up there, they could harvest asteroids or moons for raw materials and use that to build. Also, in space there's lots of solar power available.

Physics called (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673357)

They're still enforcing their laws.

Lawyers and Luddism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47673371)

We're seeing legal constraints being put on Uber, what is effectively modern high-tech car sharing. If transport tech is in this kind of political quicksand then 'flying cars' have got no chance, regardless of the technology involved.

Re:Lawyers and Luddism (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about a month and a half ago | (#47675255)

The legal problems with Uber seem to mostly stem from the insurance aspect. For-hire cars require a level of insurance that personal vehicles do not.

Never going to happen... (2)

cogeek (2425448) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673513)

Think about the drawbacks to flying cars: 1.) Amount of energy required to keep a car in the air versus on the ground. 2.) How many broken down cars do you see on the side of the road every day on an average commute? Now imagine they all crashed from an altitude of 100' or more. 3.) FAA would never allow flying cars to travel at low altitude over residential areas, thus forcing all flying cars to fly over existing roads, negating any benefit of a flying car, since it would still be "stuck in traffic" 4.) They'd have to have VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) or we'd have to have runways built at every house, commercial building, etc. Until they come up with an unlimited source of energy, a mechanical device as complicated as a flying car that never breaks down, and sufficient airspace to make it practical, flying cars will remain science fiction.

Just in case (1)

hurfy (735314) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673673)

Just in case we all get our flying cars soon, I am going to buy up all the car washes. Have you ever had to wash a small plane? They get very big very quick ;)

Any. Day. Now. Just a couple more physical problems to work out. Then we will easily solve the issues of who can fly em, and where, and when. The issue of cost will solve itself with volume, once everyone has one, everyone will be able to afford them ;) Breeding enough of the Rainbow farting unicorns to power them may take a little longer so be patient.

Mental masturbation at it's finest. We have been humbled by the pros!

Lunch with a Terrafugia guy (2)

davids-world.com (551216) | about a month and a half ago | (#47673971)

OK, so at Oshkosh a couple weeks ago, I had lunch (by chance) with a guy from Terrafugia. The food was poor, but the stories were good.

They flew in their prototype at last year's AirVenture. The video looks good. What you're going to get is a roadster/plane with foldable wings. I'm saying roadster, because it's going to have two seats - not because it's going to drive like a sports car. This will make it qualify as a Light Sports Aircraft, which means that pilots won't need a medical (important for many). Licensing is a little simpler, too, although everyone I know goes for their full PPL.

As an airplane, it's not particularly fast (93kts cruise - slower than your typical Cessna 172 Skyhawk), and it maxes out at 460lbs payload (full fuel, I guess), if the specs I have are correct. It drinks 100LL or premium motor gas (which is cheaper), and goes some 400+nm, though I'm not sure if that is with reserves (you need 30min day VFR, 45 at night, and typically you want more).

The person working on this at Terrafugia advertised it as a plane that's great for a business trip, because it will get you home most of the time: if the weather is bad, you just land and drive around the weather. That's a neat concept.

The price? At Oshkosh, they were saying around $270k. I asked about insurance, and it sounds like there will be separate insurance policies for road/air use, and it seems that the road policy more expensive than a car insurance (they said 3% of hull value), because of the added utility (more miles driven/flown). I'm not sure if I follow that reasoning.

For comparison, you can buy a used Bonanza for much much less, and you'll get a lot more airplane for your money. You will also get a new Cirrus SR20 around that price point (but that's a plane, and as such not as practical). In the long run, as prices come down, I get see how this is going to be practical for a lot of people that need to travel for work (or can afford to go places for fun).

Re:Lunch with a Terrafugia guy (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a month and a half ago | (#47674305)

The price? At Oshkosh, they were saying around $270k

Nah, for that amount of money I'd rather buy a used exoticar and try my best to make it fly. Plus, chicks dig exoticars. Mine does, anyway.

No no no (1)

MitchDev (2526834) | about a month and a half ago | (#47674779)

Considering how poorly most people drive, I'm GLAD there are no flying cars.

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