Will We Ever Really Get Flying Cars?

from the but-i-want-my-flying-car! dept

If you listen to some entrepreneurs and investors, the flying car ? a longstanding staple of science fiction ? is right around the corner. Working prototypes exist. At least two companies already take orders for the vehicles, with deliveries promised next year.

The last decade has seen the introduction of practical consumer videoconferencing, voice recognition, drones, self-driving cars and many other items that once were found only in science fiction stories. It therefore might seem plausible that practical flying cars are around the corner. They aren’t. Indeed, massive safety, infrastructure and technology problems make them a near impossibility.

The first concern is safety. While flying a commercial airline is always safer than driving oneself the same distance, it’s an entirely different story if one looks at per-trip fatality rates. The Department of Transportation estimates that Americans take about 350 billion car trips per-year and experience about 30,000 fatal accidents; roughly one fatal accident per 11 million trips. By contrast, there are roughly 35 million scheduled air flights around the world each year. Over the past decade, the number of commercial aviation incidents that have proved fatal has averaged 17 annually. This means about one of every 2 million commercial air flights ends in death.

We see these fatalities every year, despite pilots’ years of intense training, planes’ extensive safety equipment requirements, regular maintenance checks and airlines’ need to maintain sterling reputations for safety. All of these provide far more safeguards than anything that applies to cars on the road.

It’s true that there are some factors that might make flying cars safer than commercial jetliners. They would travel at lower speeds and lower altitudes, for instance. But there’s no practical way to subject them to the same safety and training standards imposed on commercial airplanes if they are to become anything like a consumer product. Indeed, the per-trip fatality rates for private planes already is very likely higher than commercial airliners, but there are no worldwide statistics available. Safety advocates would make a plausible case for banning flying cars on these grounds alone.

Even if one thinks these risks are acceptable?and they probably are, given the potential advantages of flying cars?that doesn’t solve the even greater infrastructure or technological problems. The current working models of flying cars need runways to take off and land. Bringing them into regular use would require runways just about everywhere, without obviating the need for parking lots. The world’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, accommodates slightly less than 2,500 aircraft movements each day on its five runways and 4,700 acres. Any sizable office building would need its own version of Hartsfield-Jackson if people were to commute to work via their flying cars. The space to build facilities this size for flying cars simply doesn’t exist anywhere near any city of any size.

New technologies could theoretically obviate the need for runways. One Japanese team has shown off a modified lightweight drone supposedly capable of vertical takeoff and landing like a helicopter. But making these vehicles practical would require breakthroughs that appear to be decades away. Existing helicopters and military “jump jets” still require a significant amount of space to land, are even noisier than commercial jets and drink huge amounts of fuel. As such, they’re not really used for travel. Commercially produced helicopters have existed since the 1940s and aren’t currently used for scheduled commercial service anywhere in the United States. Technological breakthroughs could eventually solve these problems, but it’s unlikely that a few years of flying-car development will overcome problems that have bedeviled helicopter designers for more than seven decades.

While the promised 2017 deliveries of working flying cars seem unlikely, it’s far from impossible that a commercially produced civilian airplane with the kinds of retractable wings and safety equipment that would allow it to be driven on highways might make it to market within the next decade. But widely available flying cars, more likely than not, will remain clearly in the realm of science fiction.

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Comments on “Will We Ever Really Get Flying Cars?”

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94 Comments
Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Never.

Disclosure: I’m a current FAA-certificated commercial helicopter pilot.

Dreams of flying are awesome, and dreams of flying cars are great, but the regulatory reality will prevent these from *ever* flying at least in the United States.

A. Reliability and Technology
1. “Drones” and UAS devices don’t have the failsafes to allow safe landing (for human passengers) in the event of a failure. All commercially-certificated aircraft *must* demonstrate power-off landing.

2. In order to provide those failsafes, “Drones” and UAS devices would have redundant systems making them too heavy to functionally lift humans and carry them anywhere.

B. Regulations
3. The FAA has control of the air from the ground up. (Yes, there are those who claim it’s from 8′ up, those who claim 58′ up, those who claim 400′ up but recent rulings support the “anything from the top of ground or structure on up”). The FAA jealously regulates its airspace — to the point they don’t want to allow military UAVs unless the pilot flying the UAV is a)FAA-certificated (which military pilots are not), and b)Is in radio contact with the appropriate air-traffic control coordinator. In other words, only a pilot can fly one and only while keeping in contact with ATC.

4. All aircraft within the national airspace system (NAS) have to be not only certificated by the FAA but also registered. These add *substantial* fees to what would otherwise be “A car”.

C. Exisitng Industries Won’t Allow it
5. Law-enforcement has a very big hard-on for the driver being responsible for the equipment. Thus there will never be a self-driving car… not will there ever be a car that can fly away from a road-block.

6. Insurance companies enjoy taking hard-earned money to gamble that you WON’T ever use your policy. Governmental regulations requiring the purchase of insurance provides them a captive audience of clients all of whom also gamble they WON’T ever use that policy. (Not to worry, if the policy gets used, the rates go sky high for at least three years…) That’s just to insure a vehicle that at most can cause minor damage. When you put that same mass in the air, (F=ma and all that), its potential for damage is exponentially higher… and so, btw, is the cost of aircraft insurance. (At least for the helicopters we fly)

Would I love to see a vehicle that “if things got frustrating I could just pick up and fly”… sure… but that makes no sense… because if you can “just pick up and fly” why would you use the road in the first place?

Far better to build a plane that can legally drive on the highway.

Ehud Gavron
Tucson AZ
FAA CPL-H

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Stuck in Traffic

We all have been stuck in traffic, wished we could turn on our antigrav/wings/rotors/magic and fly above the crowd. If there were flying cars that leaves the simple question of why the people ahead of you didn’t do just that, which leads to the question I addressed in my original post:

“Would I love to see a vehicle that “if things got frustrating I could just pick up and fly”… sure… but that makes no sense… because if you can “just pick up and fly” why would you use the road in the first place?”

…meaning if that if your car can fly, why the heck would you drive somewhere far enough to possibly be in a traffic jam? You wouldn’t. Instead you’d PLAN to fly there and then land and drive to where you want to go… which is why I ended with:

“Far better to build a plane that can legally drive on the highway.”

Still… I’m a fan of science fiction because we can ignore the physics and ignore the regulatory world and the law-enforcement and insurance constraints and focus on a better world.

I’m with everyone on this thread who said Jetsons, Rosie, or Rastro!

E

TimothyAWiseman (profile) says:

Re: Never.

Thank you for the insight.

I disagree with your assessment regarding self driving cars. Even if we insist on maintaining driver responsibility, we could have mostly self driving cars with requirements that a driver override be available and that drivers remain alert (technology could even help enforce that). I also suspect that as self-driving technology develops we will become more willing to at least lessen the need for driver responsibility.

I think your assessment of flying cars on the other hand is spot on for the foreseeable future and appreciate having an experienced pilot lay out the reasons.

DannyB (profile) says:

More reasons Flying Cars will never happen

Legacy Gatekeepers

Someone will be disadvantaged by any technology innovation and will fight to maintain the status quo.

PTE’s

Patent Trolling Entities will come out of the woodwork with some paper patent covering some aspect of flying cars.

Trademarks

There is probably no way to describe the new invention without using some common words which should be trademarks by then.

Copyright

Hey, why not. Copyright is already used to censor speech, or take down embarrassing things (having nothing to do with actual copyright). Copyright is used to stifle innovation — innovations that would become the next big money maker to legitimate copyright owners if they had any vision. When all else fails, Copyright is the universal tool to reach for to stop something.

Anonymous Coward says:

i can’t imagine a scenario where the fuel requirement for a car flight would be equal to or less than a comparable drive. overcoming gravity is always going to have its price tag.

we’re facing a situation now where we can’t sustain the amount of driving we do, both from a consumption standpoint and from a by-products standpoint. i think we can forget flying cars if only for this reason.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

My comment was not about how much energy is required for a flight, but about how sustainable the energy generation is. If we’re talking about cars burning gasoline, there’s an obvious problem.

However, there are other energy sources that don’t have that problem. Many of them are close to, but not quite good enough, to support useful flying machines. The first step toward flying cars is to further develop such energy sources.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Supposing you could produce hydrogen at scale.
Assuming it could be compressed into high pressure vessels, and be safe for widespread every day use for refueling vehicles with an extremely low statistical amount of leakage resulting in fueling station explosions . . .

What would be the mechanism of flight? Would you be burning the hydrogen as in a rocket or jet engine such that expanding gas from the engine provides thrust for lift? Sort of like the space shuttle main engines, except using oxygen out of the air? The space shuttle main engines use pure oxygen, so they probably burn hotter than the 21 % oxygen in the air; but I’ll point out this. The reaction burns at about 6000 ยฐ. That the temperature where iron turns to gas. Not liquid — but the temperature at which iron evaporates. Even if using the air with hydrogen for a jet engine type combustion, we’re talking high temperatures. How would you keep the engine from either melting or evaporating. (The shuttle pumps the cryogenic fuels through small plumbing that lines the exhaust nozzles and other engine parts, which cools them, and pre-heats thus further pressurizing the propellants.)

Or would you attempt to somehow rapidly turn hydrogen / oxygen into enough electricity to use electric propellers? That would have to be a pretty massive and likely hot reaction either from some kind of jet or internal combustion engine / generator, or some kind of massive output fuel cell that wouldn’t melt.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Hmm – that’s a good point, but let’s turn that into a plus! Use a fuel cell. That’s the safest way to turn hydrogen into power. As you remark, to provide the current needed for electric motors to get you off the ground, the fuel cell will be exceedingly hot. So use that heat to maintain a hot-air envelope to help lift the car. So, a small hot air balloon type vehicle with electric fans to direct it, with the fuel cell keeping the air hot.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Don't we already have flying cars?

Yes, the technology works, but . . .

How how many thousands of dollars an hour does it cost to operate a helicopter? And how many million is the acquisition cost of a helicopter? How difficult are they to learn to fly safely? What is the maintenance cost? How densely can helicopters be flown in an urban area for people to get to work? How much ground parking space does one require?

Skeeter says:

Dolls and Planes

We have yet to even accomplish lifelike robotic sex dolls, who really thinks they are going to drop the research into such a tremendous liability as a ‘flying car’, when you can’t even get one of those ‘movie-inspired’ lifelike dolls first?

All joking aside, forget it. The government doesn’t trust you with firearms, shaving cream or pen knives on aircraft. Do you REALLY think they are going to let you have an unmonitored aircraft (without A-and-P yearly certification) sitting in your garage that you could fly over a city and drop bombs from?

Key words: NEVER_GOING_TO_HAPPEN!

Piot Guy says:

Missing the hard part

Licensed pilot, PP-ASEL-IR for those who care.

Background: Once a year I get to work with people from all over the aviation map, space also. The co-founder of one of those companies is a person I get to talk with.

The hard part is not making a machine that flies or can drive on the road. The hard part is making a machine meets FAA and DOT regulations and still has expectable performance as a car and as a plane.

Odd things like the required type and thickness of glass by DOT adds a nasty weight penalty to the plane. Does it still fly, yes, can you carry more than one person with a full tank of gas? Maybe. And that is just one thing, there are hundreds more.

You are going to have to take your flying car to certified mechanic once a year. If he doesn’t like something, it is not airworthy, not airworthy, you can’t keep insurance on it. No of “Yea, I;m going to wait to the spring and then get new tires.” The A&P doesn’t like something, it gets fixed. I don’t think most people that own a car would put up with hassle.

Let’s not even get into the knowledge and skill level required to fly safely. Just look at the roads after the first snowfall in the midwest. See all those people that forgot how to drive on slick roads that are now in a ditch. Do you want those idiots flying?

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Missing the hard part

No – the real obstacle to flyign cars is simply this:

What on earth id the point?

Suppose you have an aircraft that can take off from a footprint roughly the same as its own size (eg a helicopter). In that case the “car” part of the equation is redundant.

OK – so now suppose that you have an aircraft that requires an airfield to take off – in that case you might think that the ability to drive on the road has some point BUT the relative inefficiency of the device as an aircraft AND as a car would nmean that it would always be beaten by the combination of an aircraft and a car (or even two cars) – which is always likely to be cheaper and better.

Now if what you mean is not a single device that can do both functions – but rather an aircraft that has a cost of ownership (including operator training) comparable to a car then that is a much more sensible goal – but I suspect that is also a difficult proposition.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Missing the hard part

I have a sneaky suspicion that when people fantasize about flying cars, what they’re really fantasizing about is the ability to avoid traffic. I think that’s the main point they’re thinking of.

The problem is that fantasy involves there being few, if any, other people with flying cars. The reality would be that most people would have one, so the traffic congestion problem would simply be transferred from the ground to the air.

JMT says:

Probably dead no matter what you're flying

” It’s true that there are some factors that might make flying cars safer than commercial jetliners. They would travel at lower speeds and lower altitudes, for instance.”

I’m not sure makes them inherently safer. The cruising altitude and speed of airliners doesn’t really contribute to the likelihood of death if it all goes wrong, because even at the altitude and speed a flying car will be at, falling out of the sky is likely to be fatal. The survivability of light aircraft crashes doesn’t seem to be any better than for airliners.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Altitude + Airspeed = Safety

When an aircraft loses power the way in which it survives is that it glides (fixed-wing) or autorotates (helicopter) to the ground.

This process consumes “stores of energy” such as altitude (gravity) and airspeed. (In a helicopter we also store energy in the rotor speed).

You can trade airspeed for altitude, altitude for airspeed, and either for distance to a safe landing spot.

When the power failure hits the more stored energy you have the more options you have as to “where to go”. A commercial jetliner at 33,000ft traveling at Mach 0.82 can glide for 150km (93m). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadstick_landing

Being low and slow are recipes for “nowhere to go” in the event of a power failure because there is not enough “energy” in a low altitude to convert to airspeed before hitting the ground. Similarly if you’re going slow there’s no way to convert that to distance to get to a safe place.

E

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Altitude + Airspeed = Safety

That is a common misnomer. Most accidents do NOT occur during takeoff and landing. They occur during the descent from cruise. Fascinating study review at http://www.theglobalist.com/when-do-planes-crash/.

However, powerplant failure at any phase of flight can be dangerous. It MUST NOT be fatal (or more correctly it should be designed survivable). Given the choice of high and fast or slow and low the latter is definitionally less safe.

Best regards

E

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Altitude + Airspeed = Safety

The link I provided shows data from unbiased sources. Yours is a training link for pilots with training wheels.

Argument ad hominem at best – however….

It is the SAME DATA! Note the years surveyed are identical – suggesting that the ultimate source is the same.

The ultimate source of both is Boeing; see here:
http://www.boeing.com/resources/boeingdotcom/company/about_bca/pdf/statsum.pdf

as your source admits.

If you look at page 21 (or 20 depending on how you number the pages) you will see a slightly more detailed version of the diagram in my source.

So takeoff is 7%, initial climb is 6% final approach is 24% and landing is 24%.

Total 61%

Descent is only 3%.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Descent fatal accidents 35%. Takeoff 20%. Cruise 13%.

Yeah – you’re right. I took a cursory look at it before but now that you’ve pointed out the page I looked at the total numbers.

Descent+initial approach+final approach=35%. That’s more than landing (24%), cruise (13%), or takeoff+initial climb+climb (20%).

And it’s PDF p.21 internal doc p.20 ๐Ÿ™‚

Ehud
P.S. I don’t think it’s an ad hominem unless I was attacking you… which I wasn’t. However, in the spirit of peace I apologize for any offense I gave ๐Ÿ™‚

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Descent fatal accidents 35%. Takeoff 20%. Cruise 13%.

It was only a “technical” ad hominem, I didn’t take it personally!


Descent+initial approach+final approach=35%. That’s more than landing (24%)

Yes you can read it that way – however it does sort of depend on which numbers you choose to add together.

My reasoning was that the phases of flight that are inevitably low and or slow account for the majority of accidents. In those phases, all other things being equal, an aircraft with a lower stalling speed will generally be safer.

Of course there are other factors.

The safety scrutiny that commercial airliners operate under far exceeds that of private aviation. Hence private aviation is much more dangerous – and flying cars would definitely fall under private aviation rules because they would otherwise be uneconomic.

The accident rate in private aviation is only tolerated because it is such a minority pursuit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Probably dead no matter what you're flying

The higher the attitude the less the air, and the easier it is to travel at speed. Therefore light aircraft are limited in altitude by the necessity for the occupants to breathe, lower speeds due to air resistance and friction heating of the aircraft. It is due to physics and physiology.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Probably dead no matter what you're flying

Lol, no, most of that is wrong.

>The higher the attitude the less the air,

The higher the altitude above sea level the less DENSE the air is. There’s not less air. It’s also exponential so you have to go REALLY high to make a difference. No such altitudes are discussed here.

>and the easier it is to travel at speed.

I don’t know what “easier” or “at speed” means.

>Therefore light aircraft are limited

What is a “light aircraft”? The FAA has a class called Light Sport Aircraft” but that’s different. Why do you think that aerodynamics ONLY limit “light” aircraft? Please use big words when making up facts.

>in altitude by the necessity for the occupants to breathe,

Breathing (for humans) occurs just fine and requires no special oxygen in FAA certificated flights at altitudes of 12,000ft and below. That’s for all aircraft, “light”[sic] and otherwise.

>lower speeds due to air resistance

Junior-high physics fails again. At the speeds discussed there’s no noticeable change in air resistance depending on altitude.

>and friction heating of the aircraft.

Perhaps you’re thinking of the SR-71 and Mach-3. For normal aircraft there’s no factor of friction heating of the aircraft [airframe] based on airspeed.

>It is due to physics and physiology.

“it is”

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Probably dead no matter what you're flying

Hmm – I don’t think you are exactly right either.

Firstly higher altitudes DO reduce fuel burn at a given speed – although engine performance is adversely affected.

Otherwise commercial flights would stick to low level – whereas in fact the longer your flight the higher it is likely to be. There is a trade off between fuel used to reach a high altitude and fuel burn whilst cruising.

Breathing (for humans) occurs just fine and requires no special oxygen in FAA certificated flights at altitudes of 12,000ft and below. That’s for all aircraft, “light”[sic] and otherwise.
Define light aircraft as “unpressurised” and – yes light aircraft ARE limited.

Flying at 12000 ft without pressurisation is possible but not comfortable. Commercial flights maintain the pressure at the equivalent of 8000ft or lower.

The sweet spot for efficiency seems to be in the region of 30000ft (air density has more than halved at that height).

So what I think he was trying to say is this:

Light (unpressurised) aircraft are limited to lower altitudes than airliners (30000ft) and hence are unable to take advantage of the greater fuel economy and/or higher speed that is possible at greater altitudes.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Probably dead no matter what you're flying

All excellent points except you don’t get to ‘define’ light aircraft as unpressurized. I appreciate that’s what you’re suggesting the OP meant, and I agree with the concept.

You do get some fuel savings by leaning the air/fuel mixture no matter how “low” the altitude you climb to… but it’s not significant until — as you pointed out — the atmosphere is at a fraction of its density at sea-level so the fuel savings are comparable.

Still, fuel savings is not top of the list of goals here, and that presupposes normally-aspirated combustion engines. Since we’re talking science-FICTION here we can also presuppose a future fuel with a greater energy density than gasoline — only nuclear has that now — and the ability to safely and efficiently use it.

E

Anonymous Coward says:

Parachute

There is this awesome invention called a parachute that when attached to an aircraft can safely return the aircraft and it’s occupants to the ground.

These whole airplane parachutes have saved hundreds of lives, I’m surprised that so few light aircraft have them.

The parachute in my home built airplane cost about the same as the engine. I hope the chute ends up being a waste of money but if it ever is needed it will be money well spent!

Maybe some day parachutes will be standard equipment on all small aircraft.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Not if BMW, Audi, MB, Dodge drivers get to. ..

NEVER if the azzholes that drive BMW, Audi, Mercedes Benz, Dodge, Chevy trucks,Suburu WRT vehicles get to buy them.

Wow, how did you come up with that list? Seems oddly specific. Dodge but not Chrysler? Chevy trucks but not Ford trucks or Chevy cars? What about Ram (now it’s not Dodge any more) truck drivers, are they azzholes? And I assume you mean Subaru WRX.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Ramping the danger up to 11

There are already plenty of people on the road who really shouldn’t be, whether they are paying more attention to their phones than the cars around them, are focused only on their own driving and not on the driving of others until it’s too late, drunk drivers, people driving tired…

Thing is though if the worst happens and they crash more often than not the safety features in the car are enough to eliminate fatalities and reduce them to bumps and bruises. If they hit someone else unless they t-boned them odds are the other person is going to be fairly intact too, given the whole ‘giant steel cage’ surrounding both drivers.

Now imagine the carnage that could happen if a driver screws up, or a car breaks down mid-flight. Hope there’s nothing squishy underneath because it’s about to be crushed by a multi-ton hunk of metal, and unless the in-car safety features improve massively the driver and any passengers are likely going to be dead on impact.

Flying cars sound neat enough, in a ‘life of tomorrow’ kind of way, but there are some serious problems that need to be dealt with before they could even begin to be practical in any real sense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Only one minor breakthrough is required to make flying cars practical. Cheap, low power, reliable anti-gravity. This unfortunately will require significant revisions in physics as we currently understand them. Since gravity remains a theory it is only theoretically impossible, but I’m not going to hold my breath waiting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Probably the closest thing today is,

the PAL-V. And actually it should be street legal in the U.S. since most jurisdictions regard 3 wheelers as motorcycles. The is likely the most practical configuration for urban applications.

For longer ranges, a modern refactoring of the Arrowbile configuration is probably the way to go. Breeding an Arrowbile with a Long EZ would likely get you in the neighborhood.

In both cases, you have to create the market before you can sell it. There are very few autogyro pilots. And there aren’t that many airports where you really need a car once you get there. Even at a bean patch in the middle of Nebraska, Bubba will drive you into town if you call ahead.

The only way I can see this moving forward in a big way is generating demand on the cheap through stewardship of an enthusiast group. For example, get a copy of the plans for the Arrowbile, transcribe them into CAD, and release those plans open source.

After 100 home builders have built one, you might find a market emerging as kids see one at the grocery store and decide they MUST have one when they grow up. But it would still take decades, with hundreds of people working on it as a labor of love. (read as: without pay)

Mintaka says:

Re: Probably the closest thing today is,

And actually it should be street legal in the U.S. since most jurisdictions regard 3 wheelers as motorcycles.

I think it would actually be illegal to sell it in the US because of the ban on 3 wheelers with 1 front wheel. They might could redesign it with 2 wheels in front and 1 in back like the old tail-dragger airplanes. But then it would be butt-ugly, like the similar motorcycles currently being sold to people who can’t balance on 2 wheels.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Probably the closest thing today is,

I think it would actually be illegal to sell it in the US because of the ban on 3 wheelers with 1 front wheel.

Do you have a reference for that? There are lots of motorcycles converted to three wheelers with one front wheel, but maybe they were grandfathered or there’s some kind of exception for a conversion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Probably the closest thing today is,

There are lots of motorcycles converted to three wheelers with one front wheel…

Not being sold by any manufacturers, that I’m aware of. That’s the reason ATV’s all went to four wheels instead of three many years go, despite three wheelers being less expensive to manufacturer.

…safety issues with three-wheel ATVs caused all ATV manufacturers to upgrade to four-wheel models in the late 1980s, and three-wheel models ended production in 1988, due to consent decrees between the major manufacturers and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
– Wikipedia

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Probably the closest thing today is,

“due to consent decrees between the major manufacturers”.

Barrier to entry erected by manufacturers and regulatory agencies can be expected to be a huge success factor, period.

The consumer vehicle market in the U.S. has enough regulatory capture that the paperwork costs could easily exceed the cost of the preliminary development cycle. And if Detroit caught wind of what you were up to before you actually got the product to market, you can guarantee that it would.

I’d thought about this a while back related to another idea unrelated to flying cars, and the conclusion I came to is that you would need to clearly separate functionality during the design phase.

Essentially design the product so that as it appeared in one market, would not give a hint that it was actually designed for another. For example, the motorcycle part should not look like a flying anything. Go around, register as a commercial producer in all 50 states Then do the same with the airplane part and the FAA, giving no hint whatsoever of the roadability features.

Then when you sell it, you sell it as a bundle of two products with an “integration kit” option. The DMV and FAA would already have certified it. Of course you can expect them to change their mind as soon as the hookers and booze from Detroit show up.

But it is better to be filing an injunction to preserve a previously granted permission, than to be suing over malevolent graft hiding itself in a cloak of plausible negligence.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Probably the closest thing today is,

“For example, get a copy of the plans for the Arrowbile, transcribe them into CAD, and release those plans open source.”

To continue that thought:

I’ve seen this bird up close at the museum in Dulles. It is really quite a simple aircraft. I’d be surprised if it was more complex than a J-3.

An aviation engineering student might get some of his tuition paid for by converting these plans as a course project. My guess is the Smithsonian could probably get you a copy of the plans, or refer you to somebody who could.

Kickstart it, and you get paid to do work you were going to have to do to graduate anyway, and maybe get a little extra beer money too. PDF the original plans and post them on github. Then see if you can get other contributors to speed up the CAD.

Plans from that era tended to be quite sparse. My WAG is that a 2d CAD conversion would be looking at maybe 300 hrs of work, give or take 100 hours. With three of four people you could probably get it done in two semesters without cracking a sweat. 3d for such a simple aircraft would be overkill.

It would be a challenge. But lessor men than you have accomplished more. Aviation is a small community that likes to “hanger fly” (aka gossip). Such a project would certainly create some fame. So get paid for doing something you were going to do anyway, and get extra points on your resume at graduation?

No brainer really.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: Americans want flying cars

I’m sorry, I’m sure you meant to say something meaningful. Unfortunately in the process it became meaningless.

> because

What’s the phrase before the “because”… you know, the one you’re explaining. “Because” is used to explain something given a question. What was the question?

> their legislature
Whose legislature?

> is yet
Has yet

> to become aware of
“to become aware” is to gain consciousness.
I think you mean “to be aware.”

> of the invention of the railroad
The railroad was not an invention. It was a series of upgrades from the carriage, to the horseless carriage, to a horseless carriage with special “roadways” to the railroad.

Please do add detail. This may prove to be fascinating.

E

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Americans want flying cars

Ok, bait taken.

A number of studies have been done comparing relative costs of transportation infrastructure. A good article on the challenges of the related analysis is here.

In a nutshell, if public transportation was completely free, the cost to the taxpayer for ALL transport, public and private would actually be LOWER than it currently is. This is due to the differential in management costs for service infrastructure between public and private transport.

For every train rider who would have otherwise driven, the state saves more money on highway maintenance and emergency services, than they pay for the seat on the train.

And anyone who has traveled extensively in countries with excellent public transport can tell you that Americans suck at it.

Americans want flying cars, because traffic sucks. Traffic sucks because we are morons about rail. We are morons about rail because states are incompetent at managing right-of-way .

Ergo Americans want flying cars, because legislators haven’t discovered the merits of rail. Even though they’ve paid many smart people to tell them, many many times.

Eventually you can work this all the way down to procedural practice that favors corrupt decisions. So one could also say, that Americans want flying cars, because legislators haven’t discovered the merits of using SCM practices with legislation. Or perhaps they prefer corruption?

But perhaps that is getting a little too undercover brother. ๐Ÿ˜‰

McGyver (profile) says:

All I really want...

I don’t want flying cars… people are infinitely stupid and the idea of people who can’t operate a vehicle with only two axis of moment being given a third to defile is just dumb…
A flying car on a deserted planet would be fun… But add one other person in a flying car and that moron, even if on the other side of the planet, would eventually find a way of crashing into you.
Maybe in some utopian future where we all have patience, good judgment and the soylent green is cheap and nutritious, maybe then when the antigravity drives are affordable and fail safe, should we begin to ponder the possibility of nonprofessional imbeciles piloting flying cars…
Till then all I really want is a good working jet pack so I can fly high above the birds… And poop on them for a change.

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:

Re: All I really want...

You don’t want a flying car… and I agree 100% with your reasoning (see the first post I posted above…)

What people mean when say say “flying car” is
– a vehicle that will show up at their doorstep
– transport them to their destination
– will be [relatively] fast
– will be safe

The imagined appeal of flight is that you can just zip up, zip sideways, zip down, and be done, ala The Jetsons. The reality of flight in regulated airspace is that there are air-traffic control communication messages, assigned altitudes, directions, and speed, minimum traffic separation, and other things which we TAKE FOR GRANTED yet OBEY ALL THE TIME when we drive on the roadways.

Let’s just admint we’re begging the question of the technology not being possible to meet both the side-impact DoT safety standards and the weight requirements for carrying real cargo in the air yet fitting in an 8′ wide traffic lane… so given that we’ll not discuss this again,

Making that magical traffic-controlled drive three-dimensional doesn’t solve for anything. Everything that takes off must land. Everything that can’t land is a risk of falling out of the sky. You can’t create parking spots in the air because (hey no infinite power) so the fundamental limitations of 2D traffic will exist with 3D.

Your point is spot-on. IF I WERE THE ONLY ONE WITH A FLYING CAR, MUHAHAHA then it would be awesome. But given that I’m on Earth and lots of people want to fly and none will want to deal with either the technical or regulatory headaches… it is not going to happen.

Note: Pilots do a preflight check of the aircraft before every flight. It takes me 20-40 minutes on the helicopter. How many of the readers here just “get in the car and go”?

Ehud Gavron
FAA Commercial helicopter pilot

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