A flying car backed by Google’s Larry Page? This conjures up a whole number of concepts and (sci-fi) wonders about automotive flights and the impact that this will have on consumers, businesses, customer experience and, well, our entire world as we know it.
Google co-founder and Alphabet CEO, Larry Page, believes this so strongly that he has backed the flying car startup, Kitty Hawk. The project has been veiled under secrecy until now; this video from Tech Insider shows the first view of the aircraft in action.
According to Wikipedia, a flying car is a type of personal air vehicle that provides door-to-door transportation by both road and air. The term “flying car” is often used to include roadable aircraft and hovercars.
Many prototypes have been built since the first years of the twentieth century, but no flying car has yet reached full production status. Besides Kitty Hawk, organisations such as AeroMobil, Urban Aeronautics and Terrafugia are currently testing prototypes. Terrafugia’s flying road vehicle, the TF-X, is a plug-in hybrid tilt-rotor vehicle that will be the first fully autonomous flying car. It will have a range of 800 km per flight and batteries are rechargeable by the engine. The first models will only come to market between 2021 and 2025.
Uber VTOL Taxis
Organisations such as Uber are envisioning flying taxi services with a fleet of lightweight, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically from pre-existing urban heliports and skyscraper rooftops.
A practical flying car, or taxi, would have to be capable of safely taking off, flying and landing throughout heavily populated urban environments. However, to date, no vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicle has ever demonstrated such capabilities. To produce such an aircraft would require a propulsion system that is quiet to avoid noise complaints and has non-exposed rotors so it could be flown safely in urban environments.
Although statistically, commercial flying is much safer than driving, unlike commercial planes personal flying cars might not have as many safety checks and their pilots would not be as well trained. Humans already have problems with the aspect of driving in two dimensions (forward and backwards, side to side), adding in the up and down aspect would make “driving” – or flying as it would be – much more difficult. However, this challenge could be solved with self-flying and self-driving cars.