The future of automobile: will we ever get flying cars?

When posed with the question "what will the future hold?" more than a few of us have to admit our minds leap to the cliche of the flying car. But indeed, cliches are cliches for a reason: and the matter still stands. How close are we really getting to traversing through the air? 

You are reading an article from The Future of Travel series. To read more about this you can visit the series homepage.

For the average movie fan, the dream has already been given the air of reality – from Harry Potter to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang all employing the hypothetical concept before our eyes. But a number of real life projects have been put in place to catapult us into the air since the Henry Ford days of the 1920s. 

Indeed, the famed car designer may be reknown for giving us wheels in the first place, but also had his sights set a tad higher. The first concept of a flying car recorded was in 1926; the Ford Flivver, the "Model-T of the Air". 

Aircraft legend Charles Lindbergh was involved in the prototypes himself, but after a fatal crash - the idea was put to bed. But not forever. 

So how close is reality getting to actually puncturing the hypothetical thoughts? Indeed, a number of companies and entrepreneurs are already working hard to get their respective projects off the ground. 

One stand out example is Terrafugia, an American company who have caused ripples with their two key designs that could pave the way for a future in the sky. (Not to mention sort out busy traffic jams.) Since their beginnings in 2006, two models have been introduced - the Transition, and the T-FX. 

Using foldable-wing technology, the two projects both offer different ways to hybridize road-vehicles with flight. However, with models set to be in the pipeline for 2016, the idea is not without its skeptics. 

In a 2012 piece entitled 'Why People Won't Be Driving That $279,000 Flying Car Anytime Soon", Business Insider concluded that "The main issue with the Terrafugia and the flying car is the paperwork. It’s just not the right time for this type of technology." 

However, the company themselves insist the two designs both will soon be able to be parked up on the average driveway.

The company's COO Anna Mracek Dietrich spoke to Airplanista Magazine about where she hoped the innovations were planning to go. 

"So far the public reaction has been very positive; people seem to be excited to see how Terrafugia will help them do what our name means - "escape the earth"."

It is not just Terrafugia who are in the race to get their wings. Although considerable smaller, a worthy IndieGogo project looms with a different approach. 

MIX Aerospace, a French company is in the process of creating "Skylys" - their very own flying car. Whereas Terrafugia's models are more fused with airplane design - Skylys is intended to be a combination of helicopter parts. As their IndieGogo account states:

"We have designed and now aim to build a drivable vehicle capable of vertical take off and landing (VTOL) when integrated to a set of wings.  Think of it as a kind of transformer i.e. Batman's car, helicopter, plane!  Or even a boat in the long run?"

Another frontrunner is the Dutch conception of the PAL-V which has generated press attention since 2012. Although, arguably, it doesn't look much like a car, more taking its inspiration from a motorcycle - narrow, and three-wheeled. With prototypes already in the air, a lot of anticipation is in line for the PAL-V, which also uses helicopter motors to improve its aerodynamics. 

CEO Robert Dingemanse was realistic about PAL-V's future, with the design still in further developments at the time of speaking. But  - there is real hope.

"Big inventions are always under-estimated before and after, we don't realise how they changed our lives."

Comment

Our Companies

Quick Links