August 27, 2004
Should Flying Cars Ever Be Allowed?

A story on flying cars includes a comment at the end pointing out that there are arguments to be made against flying cars.

Ken Goodrich, a senior research engineer at NASA, said one concept under discussion is technology that runs in "h" mode, which stands for "horse." The idea is that a horse, unlike a car, is more likely to try to avoid other objects and may even know how to find its way home.

But Goodrich said he's not sure that the fantasy of the flying car ever would or should become a reality. He questioned whether having flying/driving vehicles throughout the country might end up being too noisy, disruptive and impractical.

Noise is certainly an important issue. In the future we should have fewer and quieter disruptions from the noises generated by others. Certainly car locking horn blasts and car horn alarms should be banned as obnoxious public nuisances. But millions of flying vehicles taking off and landing daily next to every house in suburbs would make horn blasts seem like minor annoyances in comparison.

There is an even more important issue than noise: Safety of people on the ground. Right now a person can greatly reduce their risk of death or disablement from accidents by working at home or within walking distance of a job or in some rural environment where there are few cars. Whereas sky cars flying in and out of suburban housing tracts all day and night will bring a new risk to the lives of all the people who are now safe in their own homes from the risks of car accidents.

Flying cars might be safer for drunk drivers and their current day victims. But a better solution to that problem ought to be either to make smart cars down here on the ground that can take over for a drunk or make it impossible for a drunk to start a car in the first place (biosensors embedded in the steering wheel could detect the alcohol).

Failure modes such as engine failures which are almost always non-fatal in ground vehicles become potentially fatal not only to commuters but to anyone they are flying over in housing tracts. Plus, cars rarely hit houses and cause building structure damage today. But that would change if tens of millions of flying vehicles were passing over housing tracts every day.

Once we achieve perpetual youth with SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) technologies a risk that is low in a single year will become orders of magnitude larger once human life spans are measurable in thousands or tens of thousands of years. People may become more risk averse when faced with longer lives (or maybe not). We ought to be looking ahead now and avoiding the spread of technologies that will make it hard to lower risks that would pose substantial cumulative risks to long lived humans. Count me in the ranks of opponents of sky cars.

Update: It is debatable whether people will become more risk averse when faced with longer lives. Some people, given younger bodies, will feel energetic and will have higher levels of hormones running through their bodies making their personalities younger again as well. So people may take more risks rather than less risks. However, there will be considerable variation between different people due to innate differences in what people find most rewarding.

Also, some people will seek out brain treatments that lower thrills they get from risky activity. Just as drug addicts will some day get gene therapies to change receptors to lower cravings for drugs so will thrill seekers. Expect to see gene therapies developed that lower the feeling of excitement that people get from dangerous activities.

Also, expect to see people migrate to jurisdictions that have safety regulation levels geared to their own levels of risk aversion. Highly dedicated long lifers will live in jurisdictions where sky cars are banned, cars have test devices to guarantee that drivers are cognitively competent to drive, speed limits are low, and commuter train systems are designed to be extremely safe. High safety jurisdictions will likely not allow violent criminals to ever be released onto the street without being subjected to gene therapies that reprogram their brains to make them non-violent.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 August 27 02:27 PM  Airplanes and Spacecraft


Comments
toot said at August 27, 2004 2:50 PM:

So SENS is going to change an individual's behavior, making him (or her) highly risk adverse. Unlike the youth of the past, who risked their expectedly limited futures by joining the Marines or local police department, the youth of the brave new world will hoard their ample allotment of years by avoiding the conflicts that arise in the preservation of freedom and public safety. I assume that your SENS program includes ample provision for eliminating all of the evils to which men are prone, so all may enjoy this Edenic existence without having to stick their necks out.

Randall Parker said at August 27, 2004 3:08 PM:

Toot,

I've actually argued in one of the posts I link to above that SENS will not make people as risk averse in their own personal behavior as rational calculators of risks faced with thousands of years of potential life would become. We have our own evolutionary legacy that makes us evaluate risks irrationally.

I do expect most people to become more risk averse in at least some ways in spite of their regained youth. However, there is going to be (as there already is) a difference in attitudes toward risks imposed on oneself by one's own choices versus risks imposed on one by the choices of others. People will want to be free to kayak down rapids and to climb mountains even as they demand stricter laws about drunk drivers, criminals, and pollution.

SENS will have one interesting consequence: Given a long time to live the less risk averse will become a smaller fraction of the population as they die off at higher rates than the more risk averse.

I also expect to see the more and less risk averse separate themselves from each other. The more risk averse will move to countries that have stricker safety regulations with bans on flying cars, public cigarette smoking, low speed limits, long prison terms or execution or expulsion of violent criminals, and so on. The more daring people will move to countries that allow flying cars, helmet-free motorcycle riding and other risky activities.

David A. Young said at August 27, 2004 4:10 PM:

I think it's WAY too early to be trying to decide the relative dangers of flying cars versus rolling ones. By the time the technology becomes available to accomplish it (both computationally and materially) the technology may very well be able to ameliorate most of the dangers that we would normally think of. How reliable will nano-based engine technologies be? I'm guessing -- very. Your chances of getting killed by a falling tree limb may very well exceed your chances of being hit by a falling car, even if everyone has one. Every aircar could have it's own emergency parachute system, with computer controlled gas jets to control the final few feet of descent, thereby avoiding the possibility of landing on anyone or anything of value (this would specifically exclude politicians and certain classes of public activists). As far as noise, I agree that if this problem is not solved, the endeavor will never get off the ground (hah!). But I find it hard to believe that in the next 25 years we won't be able to come up with practical engineering solutions to this problem. And considering that flying cars will have a lot more room to manuver in, when compared to the limited number of two-dimensional lanes they travel in now, the chance of moving collisions would seem to be inherently less. That's a lot of assumptions, of course, but my main point is that our perspectives on this issue may be greatly altered as technologies change in the next couple of decades.

Gil said at August 27, 2004 5:39 PM:

What about terrorism?

Won't it be much harder to secure areas against flying cars with suicidal drivers?

Bob Badour said at August 27, 2004 6:23 PM:

Randall,

I think you have it backward. People will have brain treatments that make mundane things seem more thrilling to satisfy their need for thrills. Reducing the thrilling sensation would only make people seek riskier behaviours to compensate.

Brian said at August 27, 2004 7:51 PM:

The big problem with flying cars/automated airplanes is infrastructure. Today, almost every commercial plane coming off the line has an auto-takeoff and auto-land unit installed, but it is usually not used. The reason? FAA rules.

The first generation of flying cars will be small, automated airplanes. They will not have some sort of magic VTOL device. They will essentially have two engines with ducted fans for lower noise emissions and greater efficiency. The planes will be smart enough to fly themselves and check their essential systems to make sure they can fly safely; but in the end it will be a qualified pilot who will make the end decision (bascially something along the lines of a enhanced private pilots license. The vehicle will not drive you to your doorstop, but if you want to drag the family to Aunt Bertha 300 miles away, it's only a hour and a half flight instead of a five-six hour drive and she can most likely meet you at the airport.

In my county near the airport, a developer is buying up the land around the airport and is going to build houses that will have private taxiways connected to the airport. With those communities, you will have door-to-door service. But in reality, the first flying anything will take advantage of the existing infrastructure. After that, we'll see development of VTOL systems go into high gear to deliver a "anywhere door-to-door" solution.

michael vassar said at August 27, 2004 8:07 PM:

With nanotech, one good solution might be high power lighter than air vehicles. Extremely strong storage tanks and efficient (adiabatic?) pumps for hydrogen, large surface areas for solar power, streamlined designs, and small but powerful fans might enable air vehicles to be quiet and fast with VTOL (not as fast as airplanes, but much faster than cars). Strong light precise fibers and films would allow the baloons to be multiply redundant, with many walls, and possibly whole new baloons or on-board heavier than air vehicles for bailing out. High altitude flight and high surface area, plus no heavier than air inflamible fuel would enable a warning to be transmitted to any people below in case of catastrophic failure, and property damage could be easily replaced.

michael vassar said at August 27, 2004 8:08 PM:

BTW randall, off topic, but do you oppose even legalization of marajuana? Do you want to criminalize alcohol etc? Perscription drugs? Sugar and trans fats?

Randall Parker said at August 27, 2004 8:15 PM:

David A. Young,

We will have the technology to build flying cars many years before we have the technology to make them so reliable that none will crash into houses. My point is that flying cars shouldn't be allowed to put people at risk on the ground.

Randall Parker said at August 27, 2004 8:21 PM:

Michael,

I draw a distinction between things that only harm the user and things that harm other people.

Also, I think one has to look at individual compounds and their control in terms of the relative sizes of the costs and benefits. Most of the drug legalization advocates only tally up the costs of the drug war and fail to tally up the costs of legalization.

A major cost of legalization would be damage to babies. Another cost would be brain damage that might increase car accidents, crime, or other behavior that can be expected from people who are less cognitively competent. Another cost would be a bunch of people too messed up to work who would end up living off the public dole. Oh, and when I hear the typical libertarian response that people shouldn't be able to live off the dole I just roll my eyes. Anything that increases the number of people who need government assistance will increase the size of government. That is the empirical result. Libertarians ought to recognize that they are a small minority and given the way the average brain is wired up libertarians are very likely to remain a small minority.

Brian said at August 27, 2004 9:46 PM:

My point is that flying cars shouldn't be allowed to put people at risk on the ground.

Do you apply the same risk factors to the rest of your life? If so, you should really start forming a group against any form of transportation.

The vast majority of land in the US in uninhabited. Your house normally doesn't cover the entire square footage of your lot, and you (usually) do not the entire size of your home. Trust me when I say it is more likely that you will be injured through your own stupidity in your own home when it is compared to the very minor risk of falling flying cars using you as target practice.

To sit there and place a totally unattainable safety goal, which isn't even applied to any other transportation system, just proves you don't want the technology to happen. As I said earlier, the first generationh of vehicle will take the realm of autmoated airplanes. They will use automated guidance and vehicle control systems to minimize the largest cause of accidents in aviation, human error. I'm also quite convinced no vehicle will be allowed in the air without some sort of parachute system which will not only save the vehicle, but save the occupants as well.

Brian said at August 27, 2004 9:46 PM:

My point is that flying cars shouldn't be allowed to put people at risk on the ground.

Do you apply the same risk factors to the rest of your life? If so, you should really start forming a group against any form of transportation.

The vast majority of land in the US in uninhabited. Your house normally doesn't cover the entire square footage of your lot, and you (usually) do not the entire size of your home. Trust me when I say it is more likely that you will be injured through your own stupidity in your own home when it is compared to the very minor risk of falling flying cars using you as target practice.

To sit there and place a totally unattainable safety goal, which isn't even applied to any other transportation system, just proves you don't want the technology to happen. As I said earlier, the first generation of vehicle will take the realm of autmoated airplanes. They will use automated guidance and vehicle control systems to minimize the largest cause of accidents in aviation, human error. I'm also quite convinced no vehicle will be allowed in the air without some sort of parachute system which will not only save the vehicle, but save the occupants as well.

Brian said at August 27, 2004 9:48 PM:

Oops... Mods, please delete the duplicate comment.

Randall Parker said at August 27, 2004 11:51 PM:

Brian,

Parachute systems work at high altitudes. But if flying cars are used like regular cars than a large fraction of all trips will be done at low altitudes because the distances travelled per trip will be too small.

Also, a flying car barrelling into a house at 50 miles an hour is going to mess up a pretty decent fraction of a one story house. My size isn't the issue here. What fraction of a house would get damaged by a car barrelling into the house?

If you live in an area with lower density housing then obviously your risk will be much lower.

And, again, there is the noise issue. I do not want to hear sky cars over my house all day.

Brian said at August 28, 2004 7:06 AM:

First of all, most studies done on flying cars think the first generation of flying cars are going to operate around 2500 - 5000 feet. At that height, there won't be any noise issues on the ground or parachute deployment problems. Second, the infrastructure is going to initially revolve our the general aviation industry and then expand from there. You also won't see people landing flying cars on city streets until a safer VTOL system is developed (i.e. micro jets/fans, anti-gravity, etc) due to the numerous hazards associated with landing on a city street.

What the initial customer base will do is gather around the county airports strewn across this country and use those facilities to get from "near point A to near point B" and then use public transport to get to their final destination. While that doesn't fall into the "Jetsons Paradigm", it does provide a viable model for providing faster personal transportation which is where the market is (transportation within a 40-300 miles radius).

So why aren't people just buying airplanes these days? The biggest inhibitor to general aviation these days is a lack of insurability. Since most aircraft manufacturers can't afford the liability insurance of typical airplanes, the costs skyrockets and the demand drops (notice how huge the homebuilt market is). Also, the workload on a typical single engine pilot is enormous. You barely have time to enjoy the view before you have to start watching your speed, altitude, fuel, engine RPMs, radios, heading, etc, etc, etc. Bacsially, you have to be able to multitask very well in order to fly these days. Now compare that to a 777 captain who could literally throw a switch and have the plane fly for him to Bangladesh; you have to wonder why that technology hasn't made it down the chain to the general aviation group.

Bascially, if you could build a smart dual-engine aircraft which could provide a stabilized assist takeoff and landing, autopilot, and automated systems monitoring for around $150,000; I'm betting the demand would be huge. Not only would the general aviation crowd go diving for a piece of it; but you would also start drawing from the corporate crowd would could avoid the airports and fly directly to customers around the area along with the upper middle class who will do anything to own a vehicle that could chope off five hours of drive time with three kids screaming in the background.

michael vassar said at August 28, 2004 7:19 AM:

I'm not a libertarian Randal, actually, since I expect a technological singularity in the next 50 years, I oppose any radical changes prior to that except changes that extend lifespan. Too much chance to ruin things to justify with impatience.
Anyway, I was just asking you a simple question about what you thought about a small set of substances. Alcohol is the classic case study for a substance that harmed others, not just the user, but in most people's opinions shouldn't have been banned.

Eric Pobirs said at August 28, 2004 10:59 AM:

I've always thought the depiction of flying personal vehicles in SF as a major bit of fantasizing on the part of authors. The exception has been those writers who posited a world in which humans are rarely allowed to exercise direct control of their vehicles beyond specifying a destination.

Right now, getting a pilot's license is immensely more demanding than maintaining a license to drive a common automobile. Private planes are a tiny, tiny quantity compared to automobiles, yet rarely does a week pass without a local news report of a private plane crashing and killing all aboard. The idea of private aircraft expanding to even 10% of automobile numbers is more than a little frightening.

If, as Brian suggests, a smart safe aircraft that could entrusted to the average DMV linestander became available for $150,000, I don't think it would as big a success as he believes. This is triple the price of a high-end SUV or sport-luxury car for starters. That price might be the only thing that makes it viable for long. If air traffic is massively increased you would need to restrict movement to designated air lanes (easily done with an automatic relationship between the autopilot and ground transponders. Even with really dependable VTOL (Harriers are scary machines with an exceedingly high accident rate compared to more conventional aircraft) you would still have a serious problem managing traffic a thousand times greater than any airport in the world currently handles, albeit in an array of take-off-and-land areas throughout the region rather than a main airport, and thus you'd have swarms of aircars circling about waiting for their chance to land and proceed on the ground. After all is sadi and done the time off your commute might not be that great an improvement.

If my car could, as part of an intelligent swarm, manage my workday commute all by itself, it wouldn't need to be flight capable to greatly improve my life. The chance to relax, do something enjoyable like read, watch video, play a game, interact online, even sleep, would radically change my perspective on the distance I'd be willing to travel on a daily basis.

Kurt said at August 28, 2004 2:51 PM:

If flying cars are developed, they will need a new, automated air traffic control system to manage the 100,000s or millions of these thing and to keep them from colliding with each other. A part of such a traffic control system would be the establishment of "corridors" that the aircars would fly in, possibly over existing highways. I don't think that they will be allowed to fly freely over residential neighborhoods and what not.

Reducing the noise is a big problem. Helicopters are not widely used because they are noisy, hard to fly, and consume lots of fuel. An aircar would presummably be more fuel efficient and, with automation, be easy to fly. The challenge is to reduce the noise.

If a quiet aircar can be made AND they are designed with automation to fly in certain corridors, I would definitely like to buy or rent one. The increase in travel distance for commuting or for weekend trips would be enoumous. I could live in Bend, Oregon and commute to Portland or Bay Area each day. Or visit Yellowstone or the grand Canyon for a weekend. Or go to Ensenada at party it up for the weekend. The range of personal mobility will be revolutionary. Today, weekend travel is limited to about 300 miles and a cummute is limited to about 30-50 miles. With aircars, weekend travel range expands up to 1500 miles (half of the lower 48) and commutes increase up to 200 miles or so.

Expect rural real estate values to increase, especially in nice places that are currently too far from urban areas.

If an aircar can be made, so can an airbus and an airtaxi. You will not need to own one of these things to benefit from them. Airtaxi service will become widespread.

I would like to live on Miyako-jima (one of Japan's nansai islands near Okinawa) and be able take aircar to Tokyo and Taipei for commuting or whenever I need to see a customer. I have already picked out places, both in the U.S. and in Asia, where I would like to live if aircars become a reality.

However, I am not convinced that they are possible. The noise is the showstopper. Making them safe to fly is easy. making them travel within set corridors (away from residential neighborhoods) is also relatively easy. The engineering difficulties lie in making an effective VTOL capability that is quiet. I would not want these things around if they are noisy.

Brian said at August 28, 2004 4:28 PM:

The noise is the showstopper.

Actually, with ducted fan technology that's being used by NASA, the noise isn't that huge of a deal anymore. And if you factor in that most places would use current airstrips; the noise problems disappear completely (unless you buy a house at the end of a landing strip). The only problem "could" be during the taxi phase to your home. Again, this can be solve by installing a small pancake electric motor inside of the wheels of the vehicle to allow it to move at 15-20 mph while the engines are shut down.

The technology is there. If I could find investors, I think this is something that could be the next revolution in transportation.

Jay Renegade said at August 28, 2004 4:53 PM:

There's no reason to oppose flying cars, as I believe that, once they arrive, they will arrive in an era where cars and planes are already being driven by software that allows for perfect driving/flying records.

Accidents could occur, if the software were buggy. However, I don't think these types of software will be deployed unless they are extremely thoroughly tested. Once the software is completely debugged, though, it will not cause one more crash, ever. People will trust the software completely, and have no problems getting on planes or in cars whatsoever.

At least... that's how I see things. And I have to admit I have been influenced by Marshall Brain's essay "Robotic Nation".

www.marshallbrain.com

Invisible Scientist said at August 28, 2004 5:06 PM:

In the movie Blade Runner, only the Los Angeles Police were allowed to have cars,
even the private detective Harrison Ford, had to put up with the regular traffic jams
in the slums of L.A..

But in the movie Minority Report, there were more cars that had the property that all the
navigation was computer controled, and these cars were even climbing the walls of the
apartment buildings to reach the door of the citizens. So in the much more distant future,
say in 75 years instead of 30 years, very quiet and very coordinated flying cars will be possible,
since they will be computer controlled to avoid chaotic behavior in traffic.

p said at August 29, 2004 4:57 PM:

Please, let's not stop human creativity in the name of risk tables. Property rights are well defined in the US and we needn't make this an issue. Even debating this issue suggests a defeatist mentality. Rather, we should define functional specs that include failure rates and noise (which I am sure would have been addressed without this NASA scientist raising the alarm). Scientist with phobias should stay in their basements. Let's create the future we desire.

Patrick said at August 30, 2004 1:39 AM:

One thing I think everyone has wrong is their talk about when we can build flying cars.

We can already build flying cars.

We could build them in the 1960s when popular Mechanics had pictures of Autogyros on the front cover.

We could build them in the 1950s when small light helicopters were being used in the Korean war.

Just what part of "small enough for personal transport, home storage and capable of VTOL" doesn't these examples meet?

But that isn't the good part.

We could build them in 1900. Some people did. There were individuals getting around Paris in 1900 in small, 1-4 person airships. These would dock on the roof of the buildings they were visiting, climb down a ladder, and then climb up again when they wanted to move on.

However something, probably the use of zepplins to bomb cities in WW1 brought up the legal issues, and they've never been allowed since.

What might have been?

Steve said at August 30, 2004 5:19 AM:

Every time I hear about flying cars I cringe. As a pilot, who was also educated in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, I love to read these fanatasy stories. The only way this will ever happen is:

1. Someone solves the energy equation. Such a personal flying vehicle would (in today's dollars) probably cost a minimum of $100-150 per hour in direct expense, most of that fuel. It takes a lot of energy to hover. The only options available are gasoline or jet fuel/diesel.

2. Someone solves the landing question. Would you want a helicopter-like vehicle landing in your neighborhodd 10 or 15 or 25 times a day? If these things are really to be point-to-point transport, you'd have to be able to land in your driveway, right? Anybody you know really want that happening, unless you live out in the country?

3. Someone solves the ATC (air traffic control) problem. As it is now, safe flight requires air traffic to be separated from one another by miles of airspace, since humans are at the controls. Only in a totally automated environment could lesser separation be tolerated. Care to guess what that might cost in 2004 dollars?

There are other equally weighty issues. Until then you can go to Moller's website (www.moller.com), put down your deposit, and wait for the good fairy to deliver your Skycar.

Steve Sailer said at August 31, 2004 11:03 PM:

In 1938 my dad worked for a factory in Southern California that built about 20 three-wheeled flying cars. But, the government decided that having only one front wheel was unsafe. So, they sold their entire inventory to the Japanese.

Ross Nolan said at September 4, 2004 6:42 PM:

Re your forum on flying cars -- you might like to know that NASA is currently organizing a "centennial challenge" prize for design/demonstration in a competition for personal air vehicles/flying cars . I have been studying the field for over twenty years and have built and flown sailplanes and lightaircraft both in the USA and Australia -- I believe that VTOL is highly problematical for a practical flying car due to excessive power and non fail safe take off and landing phases plus noise and downblast etc -- landing in your driveway will not happen requiring road mobility which imposes an additional weight burden that VTOL is poorly placed to carry . Despite very high installed power VTOLs have low net or excess thrust giving poor acceleration and climb hence a slow turnaround at Vertipads -- noise is unlikely to be tolerable either with the danger from exposed rotors another worry -- on the other hand flying cars restricted to existing airports are virtually worthless for the vast bulk of average trips (almost no one lives so close to a runway nor is their destination and existing airports might have over one million citizens per each in a typical large city. What solution is there then ? Basically the one the Wright brothers used -- ATOL or assisted take off (and landing) -- sailplanes accelerate and climb much faster than any other kind of aircraft with absolutely no installed power by using Assisted take off by remote winch via cable -- this method is not only silent (virtually) devoid of any blast or downwash and fail safe but can be integrated into a simple and cheap overroad cable structure that allows launching and landing in silence without any real estate being used and only a couple of tons of steel and concrete. The aircraft carrier launch is a related ATOL system and an ancestor was used in WW2 to launch and retrieve observation aircraft from troop carriers (the Brodie system) This will be the only economically and ecologically viable flying car system in my studied opinion -- especially in the high oil price future when 1200 HP will look totally ridiculous for a private vehicle (Moller) -- only about 3 HP is needed for sailplanes to fly 70 mph in comparison . Plenty of cars impact private houses now and about 20 percent of road injuries are pedestrians -- disproportionally more of whom are children (less road sense, harder to see and distance misjudged by drivers on assumption of size/distance relationship) -- flying machines do not injure pedestrians nor come through your front door or wall as do cars -- the roof is much better protection from injury than a window in any event . Cars on the road cannot pop a parachute to slow them down before impact and frequently trigger chain reaction accidents unknown in aviation . Meteorites are a reality to fear from the skies (or frozen "waste" from airliners on occasion more than plummeting flying cars especially with computerized fuel management -- weather is more of a likely factor to cause flying cars to endanger ground parties and the electronic artificial or synthetic vision systems now in development make flying like sitting at a video game terminal -- the outside visibility becomes irrelevant and the launch/land appratus effectively raises the 'runway' above local obstacles like houses and trees etc. Get ready for flying cars and lets work to improve the experience of travel for everyone -- even thoise who remain on the ground benefit from airborne cars since they dilute the jammed road traffic and it takes only a ten per cent drop in traffic from jam to free flowing. Glad to see your interest in the field Regards Ross Nolan Australia.

harvey said at June 24, 2005 4:03 AM:

what about private maglev cars on a grid of magnet roads? that's the logical step before skycars. besides, Steve is right in saying the skycars are way too expensive and dangerous too.

Sam said at July 16, 2005 3:04 AM:

People see programs like the Jetson's and get all excited about sky cars. Just because it is on a television show doesn't mean it is the next logical step in transportation. Taking into account modern problems of fuel prices and countless other issues that weren't ever dreamt of (or cared about) by science fiction writers, i think other, more logical (as aposed to romantic and fanciful) notions of transport ought to be taken far more seriously.

I know the plesure of being able to drive ones own vehicle around where one pleases, but the time for this wasteful exercise should really be coming to an end. More communal/public transport systems need to be supported, forgoing one wasteful system with another is not the answer. What would be the fun in having your own personal sky car anyway? Seeing how the unit has to be so stringently controlled to allow for safe transport, the 'driver' would have little to no control over the vehicle, which would then take all the fun that one could get out of the it.

"If my car could, as part of an intelligent swarm, manage my workday commute all by itself, it wouldn't need to be flight capable to greatly improve my life. The chance to relax, do something enjoyable like read, watch video, play a game, interact online, even sleep, would radically change my perspective on the distance I'd be willing to travel on a daily basis." Eric Pobirs.

- Great comment. Totally agreed.

George G said at August 4, 2005 7:05 AM:

I don't see why so many people are hung up with VTOL. Even a roadable aircraft that uses (small) airports would be a vast improvement - not just in convenience (closer to homes, there are tens of thousands of small airports) but in safety - on cross country trips people could land at enroute airports and drive through inclement weather. I am a pilot and I'd love to have one.

One thing that needs to be mentioned is that roadways cost megabucks per mile to build, but aircraft only need runways and a proper navigational infrastucture that is already largely in place. Governments are running out of money but we as a society are addicted to our mobility.

Improvements in GPS based navigation, the eventual advent of HITS navigation (Highway In The Sky), things like Chelton's synthetic vision all bode well for the increased utility of aircraft and would fit very nicely with a roadable aircraft. These things exist and are in use. HITS was tested successfully last June.

I think that Jetson type VTOL is a long way off, however. Noise and too much energy required; though to be fair to Moller, I don't think his craft is powered-lift when in cruising flight. He needs tons of power for liftoff and landing, but not for cruising flight - but he still has a tremendous amount to do. Will he succeed? I don't know.

I don't think roadable aircraft as I've described them will darken the skies anytime soon, but I do think such a thing is possible, practical, and doable. It's just a matter of time.

ross nolan said at August 8, 2005 4:48 AM:

Update on my posting of September 2004 -- the NASA centennial challenge has been announced at the EAA Airventure convention on 28 July 2005 -- details will be posted on the CAFE foundation website . Flying cars are not IF but WHEN so all the debate over "do we allow them?" is not unlike the arguments over those other "devil's inventions" the automobile, the train ,the bicycle, the wheel ,..... (check the history of naysaying and prophecies of doom for all these pretty innocuous gadgets and then look out the window to see how 'crowded' our skies really are compared to roads let alone the impact opportunities that cars have ,'car bombs' etc etc ...........

nakaia said at September 24, 2005 11:51 PM:

Flying cars is way to risky. iI dont think it would work out. First of all what abou the police? Then what about the millitary? Most of all what about air trafic. The only thing i could think of is cars that can huver 4 inches off the ground due to magnets.

Troy Musacchia said at October 22, 2005 7:19 PM:

I think flying cars should be aloud. They should have flying car test before leting everyone fly them.

Mike Friel pres of Friel Groundcrafts. said at January 6, 2006 11:46 PM:

To say flying cars should'nt be allowed is absurd and ludacris and frankly it makes me want to pick my nose, car crashes kill some 16,000 people each year in the USA yet uncle sam isnt stopping them(why). I can only watch so many bikes go by while sitting in traffic before realizing flying cars are greatly needed. Imagine the job openings such a vehicles design manufacturing and maintenance would kick start. The positive economic ripples alone far outways any nay-sayers bleak groans opposing flying vehicles. Bottom line is if it will make the government money then it will be allowed. So I believe any wise manufacturer of such a vehicle will probably have a few politicians in their back pocket and systems in-place to keep uncle Sams palms crinched with green. As president of Friel aircraft based out of chicago IL, I can guarntee all these problems will be squashed and a working quiet, affordable, safe and efficient flying vehicle is around the corner or should I say cloud.. We here at Friel groundcraft are currently designing a lightweight(960)lbs dual-ducted AVTOL vehicle capable of going on land, air, and water. Yes i said it, water, the vehicle man has dreamt about for so long is in my computer waiting to be manufactured. 35 years from now people are gonna say I cant believe they thought Brittany Spears was talented and that flying cars would be dangerous or noisy, Thank you

Doug said at January 7, 2006 1:33 AM:

Before mentioning the advanatages of job creation in this "industry", think about how many jobs would be lost. Huge airline corporations would go bankrupt. Huge ferry operators would go bankrupt. Huge transit systems on land would go bankrupt. How many people does that cover? In the millions. Also remember the giant auto manufacturers would likely go bankrupt as well.

The bottom line is:

Society is about feasibility not possibility.

Cars will be made more compact, with more efficient engines such as the hydrogen fuel cell or compressed hydrogen for current internal combustion engines. Biodiesel is also a renewable source of fuel that is a very viable option. GPS computers will locate the traffic jams and plot courses suggested (or even taken control of) to the driver. But who exactly builds these roads? The government, and they don't seem to be having that much financial trouble keeping up with the demand...it wasn't highway projects that put the US government in dept by $7 trillion.

I'd rather see the government create money to build projects like highways than see flying cars in the sky.

Mike Friel pres of Friel Groundcrafts. said at January 19, 2006 1:34 AM:

Good point Doug, however thats life.Darwin said it best,survival of the fittest. Sure these companies will go bankrupt if they dont evolve to existing consumer demands. We as a society have come so far in the last 100 years alone in the development of technology and understanding, why stop now? Secondly flying cars doesn't mean the end of highways, farries, and airline industries. It just offers the ever expanding population another mode of transportation and mobility. You have to agree thats what America's about change for the better. Here at Friel groundcraft we are developing technology that is amazing. Basically you'll get in type in to and from coordinates and off you go. The on-board flight diagnostic stabilization systems keep the vehicle stable in flight while your reading the morning newspaper from a computer screen. Its my dream to offer a vehicle to the market capable of revolutionizing how we get from point A to point B. think about it the benefits outweigh the demerits. Thank Mike Friel Pres of Friel Groundcraft.

Richard A. Strong said at September 7, 2006 7:58 AM:

I cordially invite you to visit my website, strongware.com, to see my StrongMobile Aircar Project. I have been working on it for about 50 years, off and on in spare time and feel that the preliminary design is ready for prototype development.
Rich Strong (Major,USAF,Retired), BSc,MA,PE

scott fraser said at February 14, 2007 11:23 AM:

hi. my name is scott fraser. i invented the flying car at age 12. i disagree with you guys when you say that flying cars should not be allowed. i think they would improve our world so much today. in conclusion i think flying cars should be used in everyday life. the end.

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