Fans of The Man with the Golden Gun or Chitty Chitty Bang Bang remember the crazy appeal of a flying car. But the author Ian Fleming was not the only one with a wild dream. Uber, Google and the Airbus Group are already working hard to make that dream come true.
Why flying cars?
Why do we want flying cars? Given 60% of people will live in cities by 2030 and how congested they already are, flying cars could free up the roads. If Airbus is right, we will:
“Fly over traffic jams at the push of a button”.
Nobody has asked how we can all fly over traffic jams because it is far from being a form of mass transit. Urban Air Mobility, a new Airbus division, is exploring a flying car for individuals and a kind of helicopter for groups. You will simply book one with an app.
Uber goes above
Uber (which means “above” in German) already plans to run a network of flying cars in Dubai and Dallas-Fort Worth by 2020. Its cars will be electric, use vertical takeoff and landing, and be able to fly 100 miles in 40 minutes. They don’t exist yet but Uber has signed deals with five companies it thinks will bring the dream alive.
Last year, Uber said it would need 1,000 aircraft and 83 vertiports with 12 charging spots in each one. This would be able to serve three or four cities.
Wired.com, the magazine that loves all things tech, said “whoever operates these flying cars will need to negotiate already congested airspace”. So while flying cars are supposed to reduce congestion on the road, they could create congestion in the sky.
At the moment, even self-driving cars look optimistic. So a self-driving flying car by 2020 might sound like excessively wishful thinking. Even so, flying cars are likely to be automated to avoid mistakes that human pilots might. For example, like the Lilium all-electric aircraft, they could have lots of small electric motors. This means, if one motor fails, there are plenty left.
Until 2020, when you could fly Uber over Dubai, you could just watch reruns of The Man with the Golden Gun.