For the past 30 years we have been stuck on the thought of the time when we will be able to have a flying car. The year 2000 was so long away and everyone just knew we would be flying around in cars by the year 2000 or, the "future." The millenium has come and gone and now the thought is "just wait until 2020." I think we are approaching this step in time at an angle that is just slightly off.
Examples of Prototypes
There have been a few ideas that have actually made it to the prototype stage and one company (Terrafugia) seems to have really made some solid steps forward. The first one is called The Transition.
This is actually a pretty good idea, but you can only take off and land at an airport. It converts from a car to a plan in just 60 seconds and even on the road is gets and impressive 35 mpg. Flight range is just under 500 miles and it has a cruise speed of about 105 mph. The Transition is an actual prototype that runs on premium unleaded automotive gasoline though still not a production vehicle.
The second prototype of a flying car from Terrafugia really seems to be getting us close to real-life possibilities. It is called the TF-X.
This one is very nice as it allows you to take off and land from anywhere. The TF-X is still in the development stage, but it really looks like we are headed in the right direction. It is estimated to cruise at 200 mph and again have a range of about 500 miles. But the real question is, why does it need to be a car as well?
We Just Need a Flying Machine
There is no need to have a car that turns into an airplane. There is no need to have a helicopter that can also drive on the interstate. We just need flying machines. Everywhere you go there are parking lots and every house is going to have a driveway. If we do get to the point of having flying machines, then driveways will be replaced with "helicopter pads" in the back yard.
I do feel like the TF-X is a step in the right direction and the design looks like it would be the way to go for the idea. But the idea should be that if you are going to drive, then take your car and if you are going to fly, take your flying machine. Once you try to put both together in the same project, then you are just opening the door to more mechanical issues over time.
If inventors really want to make a impression in this field, just make it safe and simple and then let time improve on the other details. Henry Ford did not worry about including a GPS in every car, or even air conditioning. He just made the Model T cheap enough by making a lot of them. I'm not saying the first thing we fly in shouldn't be safe. I am just saying that we don't need to include all the fancy benefits right from the start.