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Flying Cars: The Past, The Present, The Unlikely Future

11 Feb , 2019  

Many of you have probably watched in awe (and with quite a bit of envy) Francisco Scaramanga taking flight in his AMC Matador Coupe in 1974’s “The Man With The Golden Gun”. Hell, probably even James Bond (Roger Moore) was envious of this performance, arranging for a submersible Lotus Esprit in 1977’s “The Spy Who Loved Me”.

 

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Flying cars have shown up in many movies and TV shows, as well as novels, comic books, and pretty much any other work of fiction – and they were among the things people predicted would be in general use by the year 2000.

Unfortunately, though, they remain a dream for now, even if there are some that are in the works as we speak. Alas, like Rolls Royce’s flying taxi, these look a lot more like planes than cars, you might have to fancy your chances with an online casino to win enough money to afford trips in one though!

 

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Dream vs Reality

At the very beginning, the “flying car” was not like we all dream of it even today – a car with four wheels and a pair of wings that would allow us to take off from our driveway and land at work. Instead, the concept behind the name was that of an “affordable aeroplane” with the carrying capacity of a typical car.

The first time a company attempted to turn this concept into an actual product was a disaster, though – Ford’s “sky flivver”, presented in 1926, crashed in a test flight just two years later, killing the pilot, and Ford’s dream of a flying one-seater died with it. In the mid-1940s the Aerocar, designed by Moulton Taylor, completed a successful test flight, got approved by the Civil Aviation Authority, and was ready for mass production – although its idea was pretty popular, it never did take off, so to speak.

 

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In the coming years, development of flying cars (as in small, affordable vehicles) continued in many directions, giving birth to everything between gliding tanks and VTOLs, many of them making it to car shows as concepts and prototypes but none of them was ultimately mass-produced, leaving the flying car a matter of science-fiction and spy movies.

One of the more exciting ideas that actually has a chance to be mass-produced (should the interest arise) is Terrafugia Transition, a two-seater (one pilot, one passenger), foldable-wing plug-in hybrid capable of flying at 100 knots and driving at 70 mph on the road. It is expected to cost around $279,000 when (or if) released.

 

Passenger Drones

With the flying car (that’s actually shaped like a car) seems like an idea that will never take off, we have another type of vehicle to root for: the passenger drone. Drones are all the rage today, and they can be flown with a decent precision by pretty much anyone (using a remote control, of course).

Besides, they seem to be more precise and manoeuvrable than traditional winged planes, making them more suitable for everyday use in crowded urban areas.

 

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And the first passenger drones have already been presented (as concepts/prototypes, of course). One of the few that have actually been field tested is the Ehang 184, a single-seater capable of flying at 62 mph that has completed more than 40 manned flights until this June. Its big brother, the Ehang 216, will be able to carry two passengers over a 5.5-mile distance – it has also completed more than 1,000 test flights to date.

The future of the flying car as we’ve grown to love it is doubtful – but we might just have flying drones to replace it on our urban skies.

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Vlad Oatis-Porter is originally from mother Russia. He works as a freelance journalist for various publishing companies and devours anything tech and car related. He has been a long standing contributor to Team Carwitter and helps keep the site viable.