The future has pretty much arrived already. We've been waiting for flying cars and super-smart computers, but if we're willing to accept some flaws, these things exist today. (And if you believe the press releases of Lockheed Martin, we'll only need to wait a few more years for practical fusion!) Here are just a few more flying cars (or roadable aircraft) that could be roaming around neighborhood streets.
Ah, the cry of we-want-the-future-now folks has been "where's my flying car?" Well, a very simple version of one may finally be coming to market. A year ago, we noted that the Terrafugia Transition "roadable aircraft" had been approved by the FAA for flight as a light sports aircraft (meaning you don't even need a full pilots license). But it apparently took another year for the Transition to get the necessary "exemptions" from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to let the thing go on the road.
In case you're wondering why it needed exemptions, the LA Times has the details:
So what kinds of special exemptions does a "roadable aircraft" (best name ever) need? Well, special windows, for one. Regular laminated automotive safety glass is too heavy for the Transition while in the air, and there's always a danger that a bird could fracture it. (Dang birds!) Instead of glass windows, the Transition will use a polycarbonate material less prone to shattering. NHTSA also signed off on the use of special tires.
Now, of course, this isn't really the Jetsons-like vision of the flying car people have talked about for ages. The reason it's called a "roadable aircraft" rather than a "flying car" is that the emphasis here is definitely on the aircraft part, and you still have to take off and land at an airport. It's just that you can drive to and from the airport in the same vehicle. And it'll only set you back $250,000 (about $50,000 more than what was reported last year). By the time it actually hits the market next year, perhaps it'll cost even more.
The joking lamentation of those who were promised, back during the 20th century, of a magical Jetsons-like future in the 21st century, is the famous "but, where's my flying car?" Apparently, it's on the way. Sort of. The FAA is apparently about to give approval to the Transition, which its maker, Terrafugia, refers to as a "roadable aircraft" (catchy!) rather than a flying car. It's basically a car that has foldout wings, which can then be used to take off and land at airports. Not quite the Jetsons flying car of the future, but it's progress, right?
We had noted that there were still a bunch of companies working on flying cars, even as some of the more well known attempts have remained permanently grounded. And, of course, as people will be quick to point out in the comments (I'm sure), the idea of flying cars scares the hell out of some people, since they expect it to mean a lot more air crashes and resulting deaths. Those folks might not be thrilled to note that since this is classified as a light sports aircraft, rather than a full airplane, it doesn't require a full pilot's license -- but instead just needs 20 logged hours of flight.
There are some cool things about the Transition, such as the fact that it uses standard unleaded car fuel, rather than airplane fuel, and the fact that it's designed to fit in a garage when the wings are folded up. But, at $200,000, with rather limited range and cargo holding ability, I wouldn't worry too much about these things becoming particularly common any time soon.