The flying car that’s never been.
Flying cars are not new. Silicon Valley likes to disrupt all kinds of industries and the latest happens to be transportation. Look at all those cars in traffic, they say, instead of being stuck behind one another, we can liberate you from the road and make a flying car. Sounds good, right? Sikorsky, the helicopter company thought of this… in 1960. Check out this video.
A flying car is basically an aircraft. The rules change when you take off and now, while in the air you need to be under the jurisdiction of air traffic control. The bad news is that today’s air traffic control system can barely keep up with the current traffic, let alone deal with those pesky drones. Supposedly, the next generation air traffic control system will be able to keep up but it won’t be a reality for a few years.
You also need a license. I took flying lessons and have a few hours under my belt – it’s not like driving a car. Having a pilot’s license is way more complicated than driving a car around, there are way too many factors to keep in mind and no matter how much you automate it, it’s still a pretty lengthy and costly process.
The number one cause for accidents in general aviation, which comprises basically everything that’s not commercial, is engine failure due to fuel starvation. In plain speak, running out of gas. In case they haven’t figured it out yet, there are no gas stations once you take off. You run out of gas and an airplane with wings turns into a glider, a drone turns into a 1942 Underwood typewriter.
I live in Miami, where basically half the population shouldn’t be allowed to drive, let alone fly. If you are reading this, you likely belong to the other half. Accidents on land killed over 35,000 people in 2015 and this is without adding the factor of gravity to the equation. Having a fender bender on land is a nuisance, especially after the insurance companies get involved but something simple in the air can be fatal for both the people in the flying car and those below them.
I know what you are thinking… what if we put parachutes into all these flying cars and I have an answer for you. We haven’t done it for the planes that are currently flying, unless you are the owner of a Cirrus SR-22, your best bet when you lose an engine is to pull a Harrison Ford and find a place to land nearby.
Seriously, increasing air traffic with current technologies would be a disaster.
How about accident detection and prevention in the air? How about if flying cars can know where each other are and avoid accidents? Yes, sounds great, current commercial airplanes have this technology available and guess what… we still have accidents.
I don’t want to bore you, with all the reasons why this is not necessarily a good idea, let nature run its course and we’ll see what happens, after all, the solution may present itself in time. Bad traffic makes people think of solutions which in the case of my city, could involve having some actual public transportation that goes somewhere, like trains. Wait, I remember being taxed for something like that 10 years ago and nothing happening. Perhaps the biggest monkey wrench into the whole flying car thing is when government eventually gets involved.