The pursuit of a flying car dates back to long before there were manned flights or cars, but it’s only been recently that we’ve made real progress towards them.
This has been a big year for the flying car, or at least as big of a year as such thing usually sees. Luxury auto makers Aston Martin and Rolls Royce both announced concept version of their take on the flying car. However, the biggest leap forward in taking this technology from the pages of science fiction to reality comes from Terrafugia. The company, owned by Volvo parent company Geely, is not just a concept but apparently ready for production. Thus, the company is offering a chance to pre-order the cars before they are ready to deploy sometime in 2019. The company’s prototypes have all had successful test flights, and their newest proposed vehicle is amazing if it works as promised.
What’s the Deal with Flying Cars?
Before Terrafugia, there have been many attempts at developing a flying car. The first such modern attempt came in 1926, Henry Ford developed what was essentially a personal airplane, without really the functions of a car. The vehicle crashed during a test flight, and thus it was never mass-produced. Still, for the rest of his life, Ford insisted that a hybrid air and land vehicle would someday be available to the public.
Following this, the Aerocar had its first successful flight in 1949. In 1956, the Civil Aviation Authority approved the design for mass production, but it never materialized. There were some more failed attempts throughout the years, but most of those never made it past the prototype stage. But something about the idea of flying cars pervades pop culture, from the Jetsons to the most-recent Blade Runner film. Yet, no one has ever gotten as close as Terrafugia.
Is the Terrafugia TF-X Really a Flying Car?
Thanks to physics and the regulatory demands of air travel, any hybrid vehicle is always going to be more airplane than car. However, the TF-X is probably the closest we’re going to get to a working flying car. The three-passenger vehicle can be safely operated by one person. The completely-electric vehicle can travel 400 miles and reach a top speed of 100 miles-per-hour. This model, the upgrade from their previous model the Transition, has upgraded storage space, an emergency parachute system, and autonomous controls. The TF-X is capable of vertical takeoff, and it will do most of the work during takeoff and landing. Also, if the car senses the driver (pilot?) is unresponsive, it will land at the nearest airport. There is also an emergency system that will notify authorities and allow landing in an un-approved landing zone.
The biggest impediment for the Terrafugia TF-X are its wings. In order to make it 400 miles and reach its max altitude of 10,000 feet, it needs wings. On the road they have to fold up and stay out of the way while driving. It’s unclear how the vehicle will perform both on the road and in the air. It’s also unclear if, like the AeroCar and the Sky Flivver, these vehicles will ever actually be mass-produced. However, if pre-sales are strong, look to see other automakers chasing after Terrafugia’s success.
While the company is most likely very serious about selling these vehicles, it’s no certainty they will eventually take to the sky.
It’s strange what can help something catch on or what can prevent it from ever actually becoming popular. There are tens of thousands of fatal car accidents every year, and we accept this. However, after the tragedy with the Hindenburg blimp, zeppelin travel was largely done away with. So, even if the Terrafugia TF-X ends up produced and in the hands of customers, how long will it last? If there is a collision or some other sort of tragedy, will the government move to outlaw these vehicles? Will the sky become as crowded as the streets? Only time will tell. Still, if these vehicles are produced, those first few years will be a wild, almost lawless time for hybrid air and land travel.
What do you think? Do you want a flying car? Do you think the TF-X will be a success? Share your thoughts, feelings, and ideas in the comments below. Remember to share the article on social media if you enjoyed it!
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