The Jetsons, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Back to the Future, Harry Potter – family favorites that, across many decades, have brought the idea of flying cars to the silver screen. And while we won’t be seeing any flying cars in 2017, we’re curious: how far away are we from takeoff? How long until the dream of soaring above the streets becomes grounded in reality? Well, despite a laundry list of companies who have tried and failed, we may be getting close. But not without a few roadblocks to get over.
It’s no mystery that dozens of companies all around the globe have been firing on all cylinders trying to be the first with a flying car. But have any of them gotten close? Well, after 15 years of development, Israeli tech firm, Urban Aeronautics, are confident their 1,500 kg passenger drone will be off the ground and into market by 2020. Granted, this isn’t your traditional flying car; or, at least, what we envision to be traditional. That said, its merits far surpass its fallbacks. Urban Aeronautics’ goal with The Cormorant is not for passenger use, but to help evacuate people from hostile environments, such as forest fires, or drop supplies to people in need in military areas. And for that, we say, “Up, up and away!”
Our next closest hope for commandeering the skies is Terrafugia, latin for “Escape the earth.” Currently, Terrafugia offers a “practical flying car,” named The Transition, which allows commuters the convenience of driving and the speed of flight. The Transition is essentially a small plane that folds up into a street-legal car, which may not be exactly what we had in mind, but there’s simply no denying the impressive feats of innovation required to get it accomplished. In addition to The Transition, Terrafugia plans to have their TF-X prototype, an all-electric vehicle with vertical takeoff, off the ground by 2018.
While personally-operated flying cars may be our dream, multi-passenger airbuses are a quickly approaching reality. Commercial airlines like, well, Airbus, are in the process of developing an autonomous flying taxi called Vahana, which would transport multiple passengers in accordance with a command center. Essentially, instead of having multiple people flying themselves, one airbus driver would take the reins. "In as little as 10 years, products could be on the market that revolutionize urban travel for millions of people," said Zach Lovering, leader of the Airbus project.
The biggest hurdle for hurling cars into the sky will be winning over the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who must approve every new kind of aircraft. Approval on even the smallest changes in aviation technology can take years. And when it comes to autonomous passenger aircrafts, the FAA says it will take a “flexible, open-minded and risk-based approach.”
Those of us at Caliber are excited for the future of flying cars, and we can’t wait to watch these wonders get off the ground. And if you ever get into an accident, whether on the highway or sky-way, we’ll still be here to restore the rhythm of your life, and get your back on the road – or not – in no time.