Flying Cars | Learning by Proxy
Dozens of companies have been building silently across the world. Billions have been invested by VCs and defence corporations. They are at the precipice now!
In the 1960s the world was first introduced to the Jetsons and a picture of the future. The flying car was the only mode of transportation that the Jetsons used. The 60s was a time of the jet age, a time when man was reaching into space and a time when man landed on the moon.
That future was swamped by the internet and a lot of innovation over the past 20 years have been virtual rather than real.
The balance is shifting. All those kids who sat around watching Jetsons in the 1980s (during its re-run) are now adults. Many of them are working towards making that future real.
In 2016, I was in Paris and I watched Lilium Jets paint the vision of battery-powered Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) crafts fearing people around cities across the world. At the time they had been talking with the government of Dubai to make the first deployment there. I watched them win the Hello Tomorrow competition and the champagne was still in the bottle when Safran Group announced that they would be leading an investment round in the company.
Since then, many companies have made a bid to create a flying car. With the improvement in technology, especially Battery technology an electrically powered flying car with a range of about 100 Kms is well within grasp. Companies such as AirCar, AeroMobil, Terrafugia, Pal-V, Air One, and many others have successfully prototyped their vehicles.
While the first flying car was developed by Glenn Curtiss in 1917, working prototypes have existed throughout the 20th century. The big challenge has been legislation that would allow for such vehicles to be operated.
Slovakia became the first country to certify the operation of a flying car.
In June, the flying car completed a 35-minute test flight between airports in Nitra and the capital Bratislava in Slovakia. After landing, the aircraft converted into a car and was driven to the city centre.
"AirCar certification opens the door for mass production of very efficient flying cars," said test pilot Stefan Klein, the car's inventor and leader of the development team.
Kyriakos Kourousis, chair of the Royal Aeronautical Society's Airworthiness & Maintenance Specialist Group, told CNN that "this is not the first time that similar types of vehicles have been certified."
"If the company which is involved in the certification, has made the business case, this will progress in creating a product that can reach the market," Kourousis said.
Across the world, in large cities, chopper services are accessible to individuals who can afford them. Hence this is not really a huge leap from that. The leap is that these vehicles will be able to drive around town after having been flown. Although the car mentioned above requires a qualified pilot to fly it, an Israeli startup is looking to go beyond.
AIR developed the aircraft AIR ONE, an all-electric two-seater eVTOL that offers a range of 110 miles (177 km) on a single charge at speeds of up to 155 miles (250 km) per hour, with a flight time of one hour. The aircraft has collapsible wings for easy parking and the ability to take off from or land on any flat surface.
“Aircraft can be easy to handle if you have good tech,” he said. To that end, AIR developed what it called “fly by intent” software, which will allow ordinary people to operate and navigate the vehicle, not just trained pilots. The aircraft is also equipped with an AI-enabled monitoring system for frequent inspections to “ensure paramount safety, even for riders with minimal training,” the company said.
AIR said the aircraft “puts the freedom to fly directly in the hands of consumers” for “adventure, fun, and day-to-day flying.”
“The future of mobility is in the sky, but to get there we need to build consumer confidence in eVTOLs as a legitimate mode of everyday transport and develop vehicles on a mass-scale to bring that vision to life,” Plaut said in the earlier announcement.
The company is currently working with two prototypes and will begin test flights in February 2022 with Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority. AIR has also been working with the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to obtain G1 certification, which outlines initial safety and environmental standards for civil commercial operations
Source: Times of Israel
Flying Cars are the best way to beat traffic congestion in the cities and they might also be the best way to reduce the environmental impact of travel especially inter-city travel. Most of the prototypes tout a 100 Km to 300 Km range at a speed of 100 Km/h to 175 Km/h. At those speeds, you would be able to cut down travel time by a factor of two and also reduce the carbon footprint substantially.
Legislation is one issue, but human stupidity is another. As demonstrated by a Tesla owner who put the car on self-drive and went to sleep.
Many of these vehicles still require hundreds of hours of test flights, to ensure they fly as intended. And it remains to be seen exactly how responsible their eager new owners will be when they take them out for a spin.
"We know that most aircraft accidents are caused by the user. Hopefully, the manufacturers will put into place certain safeguards in the system to limit the ability for a user to put the aircraft in an unsafe operating condition," says Darrell Swanson, director of Swanson Aviation Consultancy.
But the one thing that we can be certain of is that this technology will be pushed through into the mainstream.
Among the three flying car unicorns, Joby Aviation is from the United States, Volocopter and Lilium are from Germany. Joby Aviation has raised the overwhelming USD820 million. Volocopter has announced the signing of their Series D funding round, and its investors include Geely, Daimler, DB Schenker, Intel Capital, etc.
Currently, 5 flying car models have been mass-produced. Electrification and autonomous driving are the mainstream
American companies (accounting for nearly 50%) are the most enthusiastic about developing flying cars, followed by Chinese companies. Many companies aim to materialize flying cars around 2025. Five flying car projects have seen mass production, and 38% have realized automation.
Source: PR NewsWire
Those well-funded unicorns are going to go on a PR blitz.
Joby Aviation is seeking permission for a series of high-profile air taxi flights over San Francisco Bay, according to documents filed with the FCC and obtained by TechCrunch.
The tests of the startup’s second-generation pre-production prototype, called the S4, would be the first in full view of the public and among the first in an urban environment.
The proposed San Francisco tests are centered around two prime sightseeing points in San Francisco Bay. One is about halfway between the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, the other is south of the Bay Bridge, closer to Alameda.
If you have rich people investing you can rest assured you will have large teams lobbying to get the laws changed. If the clearance in Slovakia plays out well, the ‘Fear of Missing Out’ alone will ensure that the laws change very quickly. We will have crafts flying around all the major cities in the world sooner than you think.
At the beginning, of the 20th century, both the car and the plane were considered marvellous toys for the rich. In 1900 the US-built 4192 cars. Today, that would be the sales clocked by a single brand in a single month. The first plane was booked in 1906. By the end of the century, there were billions of cars on the road and hundreds of thousands of planes in the sky.
Many of us have lived through the internet transition which started in the mid-90s. The world today is barely recognisable. Gear up for another transition.
Also, if this takes off, wait for Elon Musk to take to Twitter and tell you all about how unsafe flying cars are.
And what if Musk gets into this??