Flying Cars, No Longer Sci-Fi

Summertime and early Autumn in New England brings the kind of traffic that lasts hours and crawls forward inch-by-inch. The kind of traffic that forces you to sit in your car and fantasize about growing wings and flying over the miles of backed up cars to break free of you anger and frustrations. Scientists are not developing wings for humans to wear (yet), but engineers are developing flying cars so we have another option when the highways to Cape Cod get too crowded.

We’ve always conceptualized flying cars since The Jetsons were on TV, but according to Wards Auto, more and more researchers are developing viable prototypes of flying cars and we should expect to see test-runs in the sky over the next few years:

“Within the next five years, at least 10 companies are expected to launch flying cars on the market. Among those are PAL-V, Terrafugia, Aeromobil, Ehang, E-Volo, Urban Aeronautics, Kitty Hawk and Lilium Aviation, all of which have completed at least one test flight of their prototypes.”

Obstacles In The Way

We have the minds and means to design flying cars, but that alone won’t be enough to overcome the obstacles preventing them from becoming the new norm. First, the expected cost of a flying car poses a tremendous barrier to entry. A model by the Dutch company PAL-V will cost between $400,000 and $600,000 when it’s debuted in 2018. PAL-V’s competitor Aeromobill, is pricing their version at $1.3 million. On the “cheap” end of flying cars, the Terrafugia Transition will cost $279,000 and won’t even be available for purchase until 2025. Such prices make it nearly impossible for widespread adoption among consumers. The price is more favorable to large corporations who would like to save money on company planes, but the size and carrying capacity of a flying car don’t make them worthwhile either.

Regulation and government policy could inhibit the success of flying cars, as well. Current FAA regulations aren’t applicable to a large volume of small craft air flight in heavily urbanized areas. Will there be stop lights or other signals to tell cars when they can fly? How high/low can cars fly? Will there be lanes and routes that will direct the flow of air traffic? We don’t have answers to these questions and until we do, the government won’t just allow flying cars to run wild in the skies. More pressing however, will be autonomous vehicle regulation, as many of the flying cars are intended to be self-flying. Autonomous cars are in their infancy still, and we don’t have a enough data to properly author legislation to ensure consumer safety and protection on the roads, meaning we could be decades away from hashing that out in the skies.

The ability to fly is one of many innovations auto manufacturers and engineers are experimenting with. We live in a fascinating time full of intrigue and possibility, the likes of which we have never seen before. Dassault Systèmes is doing its part to help the next generation of innovators change the way we fly and drive. Our Engineered to Fly industry solution experience enables those on the cutting-edge of the aerospace industry to take a holistic approach to some of their most vexing problems in order to find creative solutions.




This post originally appeared in the Navigate the Future blog.