Will Your Next Car Fly?
Friday, January 24, 2014
Along with robots and ray guns, the 21st century was definitely supposed to include flying cars. We have pretty decent robots, and all kinds of lasers (including the ones that tease your cat). As for the flying cars, there is a very small, well-funded race among a few entrepreneurs to make this sci-fi trope a reality. Terrafugia outside Boston, Aeromobil in Slovakia, and PAL-V in The Netherlands have all made prototypes — even the Pentagon is working on a DARPA Transformer (TX).
In Davis, California, Moller International is developing a vertical take-off vehicle called the Skycar that looks like a race car, with two engines on the side and three smaller ones attached to a spoiler on the back. Paul Moller says the vehicle can travel over 300 miles per hour; so far they’ve only hovered around the parking lot. Unlike a helicopter, which makes you feel “like you’ve been lifted from above by a crane,” he explains, “in this thing you feel like you’re being lifted from below” — the flying carpet feeling.
But if you’re worried about traffic jams between buildings — memorably shot in The Fifth Element — Moller says, “It’s not logical that this vehicle be down at street level and going between buildings.” He thinks his Skycars will probably stream into cities on designated skyways a thousand feet in the air, controlled by autopilot. If and when we realize the dream of flying cars, it won’t be long before we get sick of riding in them. And then we’ll ask: Where’s my teleporter?
Slideshow: Moller International’s Skycar