Since their depiction in popular science fiction movies, flying cars may seem more like science fiction than reality. However, technological advancement is gradually making this futuristic transportation network closer to being reality.
Idealistically, functional flying cars will be introduced into society gradually over time; starting off with emergency responders and ridesharing companies.
Every night, airliners depart the United States East Coast and head west over the Atlantic towards Europe. To ensure they arrive on schedule, these planes follow pre-designated paths known as “sky highways.” This video offers an unparalleled look into this system’s workings.
Skyways are assigned letters A through Z, and daily modifications by oceanic air traffic controllers (in Gander, Newfoundland and Prestwick, Scotland) take advantage of the jet stream (which flows east across the North Atlantic at up to 150 mph), so as to reduce flight times to Europe while mitigating headwinds for return trips.
Chelton Flight Systems of Boise, Idaho provides airplanes with synthetic highways in their cockpit using the Electronic Flight Information and Reporting System with FlightLogic, making synthetic vision an FAA-certified feature of aircraft. They also developed the first WAAS-compliant GPS navigator.
Inventions by inventors such as Woody Moller’s Skycar help people navigate cities quickly while sidestepping traffic jams; but safety remains an immense obstacle when it comes to mass air travel.
The Jetsons may have dreamed of flying cars four decades too early, but their safety measures would actually make flying much safer than driving. Airline accidents account for only 0.2% deaths per billion passenger-miles while on roads they account for 150% more fatalities.
Skorup also notes another advantage of drone highways: they give states a way to regulate drone companies without risking lawsuits. State laws could require drone companies leasing access to airspace above private properties by using easements similar to what utility companies use when placing utility poles and telephone poles on property – creating a “virtual air traffic control system” rather than the unpredictable situation created by patchwork of state and local rules.
Flying cars could make our lives simpler in many ways, including reducing traffic jams. But if everyone on the road takes to using one as they leave their vehicles and fly off (a la “Jeezum Crow,” from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), this may create even bigger issues than it solves.
Flying cars are much more efficient than gas-powered vehicles when travelling short distances; however, battery weight may limit range.
Michigan project should help solve this issue. According to Budds, its corridor will be used to research how electric vertical takeoff and landing (EVVTOL) aircraft can travel safely on public roads before their formal introduction – though that day might take some time yet. But once it happens, air will surely be cleaner.
Few authors can match Sky Highways for its combination of scientific accuracy, easy wordage, and accurate illustrations – creating an enjoyable entertainment for children aged three or four.
But will flying cars really become viable within our lifetimes? That will depend on whether we can overcome some formidable barriers.
Safety issues: While electric road vehicles have seen numerous accidents, we can hardly imagine that such events would not apply to airborne vehicles as well.
Will world governments be able to craft effective regulations for eVTOLs and will the public accept them? Time will tell; but at least some locations already use them!