June 30, 2010 9:20 PM   Subscribe

Finally we can have our flying cars!
posted by Jimbob (49 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
With 5 years to spare!
posted by qvantamon at 9:21 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

It's a folding plane, not a flying car.
posted by stavrogin at 9:31 PM on June 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Holy crap that's a bunch of nerds.
posted by jimmythefish at 9:32 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Finally we can the rich have our flying cars folding planes!

posted by Malice at 9:33 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

US authorities have bent their rules for the aircraft, which could make it much more accessible for people without a pilot's licence.

Um, no thanks.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:35 PM on June 30, 2010

You can already fly an ultralight without any sort of license. Even an ultralight helicopter. As long as they zone the area around commercial airports, and the flying cars fly at different heights than commercial planes, it isn't really that much added risk.
posted by qvantamon at 9:42 PM on June 30, 2010

I once visited a fly-in community on one of the islands in Puget Sound. Each house had a giant attached hangar/garage that could hold a plane plus a couple of cars; the road in front of the houses connected directly to the runway. You could get up in the morning, eat breakfast, get in to your plane and fly away without even going outside.

With this thing, you could have the same lifestyle without an entire custom-designed house. You'd still want to live near the runway, since no way are you gonna take a million-dollar plane on the freeway.
posted by miyabo at 9:43 PM on June 30, 2010

With this thing, you could have the same lifestyle

Except when those people find out I've been using their private island home they'll call the cops.
posted by qvantamon at 10:03 PM on June 30, 2010 [5 favorites]

I think miyabo got it. The other thing you can do is fly around the country, land at small airports, drive to local restaurant, drive to local motel, without paying overnight airport parking fees or rental car. Wonder what the range and speed is or if it has a parachute.
posted by stbalbach at 10:14 PM on June 30, 2010

Oh, and terrafugia.com
posted by stbalbach at 10:16 PM on June 30, 2010

The family and I were up at Coles Bay, here in Tasmania, walking along the beach, when a yellow plane started circling. It landed on the water, slid over and stopped on the beach, and a man, a woman, and two dogs climbed out. They put the dogs on leads, and proceeded to walk up the beach to a cafe on the shore.

Lifestyle. I want one.
posted by Jimbob at 10:22 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by Jimbob at 10:24 PM on June 30, 2010

Data points:

Air speed 115 MPH
Air range 460 mile (about 4 hours flying)
Air MPG ~23
Ground speed is "highway speed" (60 mph?)
Standard unleaded gas

Pretty nifty. They expect to sell 300-400 a year.
posted by stbalbach at 10:32 PM on June 30, 2010

I'm still trying to ponder what it means to not need any sort of license to fly one of these. Does that mean over uninhabited space, or could you fly over a city or a highway? Wouldn't the risk of crashing into someone or something be a really big deal?
posted by Rhomboid at 10:33 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

This will help make some rich people's regional weekend travel a bit more easy.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:35 PM on June 30, 2010

Yeah, but they never show you the robot mode because it always looks the stupidest.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:46 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Traveling in a light plane is actually kind of crappy. I'm sure it's awesome for the pilot, what with the flying and all. But as a passenger, it's a bit like riding around in an old Volkswagen Beetle. Loud, rattly, smelling of gas fumes. It's not the least bit glamorous.
posted by ryanrs at 10:48 PM on June 30, 2010

"I'm still trying to ponder what it means to not need any sort of license to fly one of these."

You are close:
"According to the Register, Terrafugia has managed to persuade the FAA to allow its little plane to be a little heavier than the normal little plane--110 pounds heavier.

Light sports aircraft are normally required to weigh in at 1,320 pounds. Terrafugia very much wanted the transition to be classified as a light sports aircraft because it is so much easier to get a pilot's license for one of these things. There is less documentation, and you need only 20 hours of logged flying time." (CNET)

From the Washington State Board of Cosmetology License Information
In order to obtain a license in cosmetology, barbering or esthetics, or nail technology in the state of Washington, students must complete the requirements listed below. Please contact the State of Washington Department of Licensing for more information.

COSMETOLOGY: 1600 hours
BARBERING: 1000 hours
ESTHETICS: 600 hours
Ponder that.
posted by vapidave at 11:28 PM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

This thing is like the future. Of the past. As depicted in really cheap penny-a-word pulp sci-fi written in 1949 by L. Ron Hubbard while thoroughly whacked on benzos. For the two hundred plus thousand dollars it's probably going to cost the bonehead(s) who actually shell out for one, I'd much rather have one of these.
posted by killdevil at 11:29 PM on June 30, 2010

I wanted flying cars, too, until I started thinking about the reality. We can't drive ground-based cars without bouncing into each other, often with fatal results. Now do that a hundred feet above the ground. What happens when you get in a wreck up there? That's right. Gravity.
posted by sugarfish at 11:38 PM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I dunno. This thing looks pretty weird.

I like the Icon A5 more (plus it can land on water OR on land).
posted by gen at 12:02 AM on July 1, 2010

that's not a flying car. flying cars don't have wings, they have little antennas sticking out the back that leave a trail of circles and go 'bwoo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo'
posted by sexyrobot at 12:03 AM on July 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

460 miles range seems pretty good. That's about Brisbane to Sydney(*) and I wouldn't need to rent a car or hire a taxi when I got there. Obviously I don't have 200 grand, but that seems more useful than a mere gimmick.

(*) Okay, your not actually going to fly to the very limit of your range without filling up along the way.
posted by adamt at 12:20 AM on July 1, 2010

Finally we can have our flying cars!

No. If you want a good vehicle, you have to get one that does just one thing but does it well.

A flying boat is a pretty good plane and not really a boat at all. It floats and taxis on the water, but you'd never go anywhere in it as a boat. It's a plane that generally doesn't sink.

An amphibious car, unless you are willing to put way to much money into it, is always going to be a goofy car and a shitty boat. Unless you're planning on assaulting another country by sea or you're running a tourist business that depends on the novelty of driving into the river without drowning, they suck.

And a flying car is always going to be some Wile E. Coyote contraption that is shitty at being a plane and shittier at being a car. Do you want to go up in a compromise? In almost every situation in which you might use such a thing, you would be much better off flying a 100 percent plane to an airport and then driving away in a 100 percent car. (And as sugarfish notes, do you want to go up in a sky full of other Wile E. Coyote vehicles piloted by other typical drivers?)
posted by pracowity at 12:31 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Jimbob: That's a Lake Buccaneer , arguably one of the more successful amphibian aircraft, being much more comely than, say, a Republic Seabee.
posted by pjern at 12:59 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Terrafugia doesn't call it a flying car, they call it a "roadable aircraft," which I think addresses some of pracowity's criticism. You will need at least a Sport Pilot's license to fly it, which is supposed to be cheaper and easier to get than the full private pilot license.

The prototype did go through a full series of flight tests, and was basically OK, but didn't perform as well as they had hoped (inadequate lift from the canard, I think), so they're working on a version 2, this time with some good CFD tools. (Note the complete contrast with the M*ller Skycar, which has given flying cars a bad rap for probably 30 years now -- the Transition actually works and isn't a complete scam.)

Terrafugia asked for a similar exemption to the 1320 lb Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) weight limit that the FAA allows water-capable LSAs (1430 lbs), perhaps because the safety equipment required by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards allows the plane to operate on roads like floats allow a plane to operate on water. The safety equipment (airbags, crumple zones, roll cage) will add a similar amount of weight to the plane as floats. I believe the FAA granted them a lesser weight increase than they had asked for, but I'm sure they're still happy to get what they did.

Note that Terrafugia could build as big and heavy a plane as they like, but if they don't meet the LSA rules, their potential market is more limited.

I own a (much faster, more capable) plane, but would consider something like this to avoid weather that is bad enough to exceed my personal risk tolerance. If I would otherwise be tempted into flying into deteriorating weather, I could instead just land and keep making slower progress to my destination.

I truly hope they succeed!
P.S. I got to check out one of Molt Taylor's original Aerocars a few months ago. It's the only one of five still flying (and driving on the highway, when needed). When the owner and a couple of his friends were driving it around the ramp at the Half Moon Bay, it sounded like a hopped up VW bug with no muffler.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 2:00 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't quite get it. In every post or thread here related to futurism, there is much whining about where are the flying cars and now that we (sort of) have them the only reactions are meh and no thanks? I know this is not quite what people have been dreaming of, and we are now realizing how impractical it would be to keep all those zooming commuters of early sci-fi from crashing into each other, but still this is kind of cool...right?
posted by blue shadows at 2:12 AM on July 1, 2010

People snark about wanting their flying cars because they think they're being funny or witty by trotting out a tired trope, but in fact nobody actually really wants flying cars for all the reasons already mentioned -- price, safety, impracticality.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:58 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I do not want flying cars. A life-long informal survey has shown that most people cannot handle driving in two dimensions, and you want to add a third? Seriously? Just the extra set of unusued blinkers is enough to give me sleepless nights.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:01 AM on July 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

I don't want them and I don't want others to want them or want wanting them. As is my wont, I find the want wanting and I won't have them.
posted by pracowity at 3:33 AM on July 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

Well, it's clear, for one thing, that they still need to figure out the physics of floating traffic lights.

Cue me googling for where I saw floating traffic lights - was it in Blade Runner or Back to the Future? Google image search fails me. Here's a pretty picture, anyway. Imagine floating traffic lights in it.
posted by Jimbob at 3:39 AM on July 1, 2010

Well then. I'm a 2000 high school graduate. They had us drawing these in fourth grade and speculating that all the rich kids would be receiving them on graduation day and whisking off like a Jetson or something. Needless to say I was driving an '86 Honda in the year 2000 that had a *gasp* cassette player. In dash CD players cost like $400, because they were cool...

Science just didn't make the cut.
posted by terrirodriguez at 4:03 AM on July 1, 2010

The Futurama title sequence has lots of floating traffic lights but I'm guessing you were thinking of live action. I had to check clips of the Fifth Element but they had them attached to the corners of buildings.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:12 AM on July 1, 2010

You don't suppose they even gave a moment's thought about making the car actually look cool, do you?
posted by crunchland at 4:17 AM on July 1, 2010

I wouldn't drive that thing on a highway, especially in bad weather. First strong cross-wind would have you off-roading, if it didn't roll the thing over. Even without that, lane-changing would be like Russian roulette - there's no back window, and the folded wings create huge blind spots to the rear sides.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:29 AM on July 1, 2010

You people are never happy.
posted by kyrademon at 5:27 AM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thank goodness! I eagerly await the average driver's competence in three dimensions, having already mastered two.
posted by Legomancer at 5:39 AM on July 1, 2010

They expect to sell 300-400 a year.

Maybe when Hell freezes over. 300-400 a year is pretty optimistic for normal General Aviation manufacturers, even during boom times.

As others have said, this is considered a Light Sport Aircraft, and you need a Sport Pilot license to fly it. Here's what that license gets you. It's more restrictive than a full license, especially with regards to airspace you're allowed to fly in.

I think that the certification and the vehicle are at odds with each other. The Sport Pilot/LSA program was designed around the idea that there is a group of people who want to go to the airport on a sunny day, take out their fun-to-fly plane, go for a joyride for an hour or two, and then go home for dinner. This thing is being built with different goals in mind, and they're using the LSA category to avoid a lot of the certification efforts that are normally required and would otherwise ground (heh) this program.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:53 AM on July 1, 2010

If by "finally" you mean "again" then yes. We get a new flying car every 2-3 years and the same headlines blare and we all make the same jokes.
posted by DU at 6:01 AM on July 1, 2010

That thing has a helluva C-pillar blind spot.
posted by Doohickie at 6:44 AM on July 1, 2010

It's a neat vehicle but the licensing is stupid. I don't think anything that can seat more than one and lacks autorotation "fall safe" capability should be in the hands of people who haven't spent a couple years on licensing. Yeah, I'm a huge fan of gyrocopters. It's just too easy to get dead with a fixed-wing craft if you screw up or there's some mechanical issue.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:40 AM on July 1, 2010

but in fact nobody actually really wants flying cars for all the reasons already mentioned -- price, safety, impracticality.

Well, let's be clear, I don't want other people to have flying cars. But I still get one.

Because I'm a special snowflake.
posted by quin at 9:02 AM on July 1, 2010

In the video it flew... but only just barely. Unless I missed something.
posted by cell divide at 9:08 AM on July 1, 2010

The fantasy of having a Chitty Chitty Bang-Bang style flying car is that no one else has one, so that when you're sitting in Shore traffic you can just fly away and shout down "so long suckers!" Of course, that's how cars are advertised too, and used to be to an even greater extent. You don't see them in traffic in commercials -- you see them driving down an empty winding road in the country. See the USA in your Chevrolet, etc. The sales pitch is that you're going to get away from all the other losers.

So if you ever DID want to have flying cars (and obviously that's a big IF, for all the above reasons), an extremely exclusive experience would be the first step. If anything, this thing's too cheap. It should be luxurious, fast and safe. Make it require a full license that takes some work to obtain, and make it roomy enough to take your family to the Hamptons without setting tire on the LIE. You want people with 5-10 million dollar houses in both places using this to avoid the hoi polloi, and trusting it with their precious snowflakes. To avoid 6 hours of travel on a long weekend, they might see it as worthwhile. Otherwise, it's a toy.
posted by condour75 at 9:18 AM on July 1, 2010

Bet Travolta gets one.
posted by Eideteker at 11:39 AM on July 1, 2010

Holy crap that's a bunch of nerds.

Grade A. "The company was founded in 2006 by five Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad students who were also pilots. They received some seed money from the school."

I don't quite get it. In every post or thread here related to futurism, there is much whining

Noticed the same thing. The counter-intuitive culture eating itself. Sometimes a cool thing really is just a cool thing.

nobody actually really wants flying cars for all the reasons already mentioned -- price, safety, impracticality.

That's ridiculous. People said the same about early cars, only for rich people, too impractical (roads sucked, no gas stations, etc..) and you crashed and burned a lot. Then Henry Ford came along. People still crash and burn a lot. Cars are still impractical (CO2 global warming, resource depletion, oil spillage etc..) - and we do it anyway.

What's lacking here is imagination that things could be any different than they are. That in 10 years time we will see thousands of these little planes all over the place for the price of a sports car and with built-in plane parachutes they will seem "safe enough".
posted by stbalbach at 4:24 PM on July 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

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