Imagine soaring above the traffic in a flying car. Sounds like some utopia from a movie scene! Oh wait, weren’t we supposed to be riding flying cars by 2020? Well, those memes created a storm over the internet!
But as irony would have it, flying cars can be termed gimmicky and downright ridiculous in 2023! Yes, flying cars are not the savior you most likely assumed. At least that’s not what the mighty Elon Musk would suggest. Why, you wonder? Let’s dig deeper and find out why flying cars are nothing short of gimmicky!
Flying Car Buzz
While there are helicopters, who in their right mind will think of flying cars? Well, for the record, as passionate as Elon Musk is about technology, he also thinks flying car is not a good idea. At a TED Conference in 2017, he said, “There is a challenge with flying cars in that they’ll be quite noisy, and the wind force generated will be very high. Let’s just say that if something’s flying over your head, if there are a whole bunch of flying cars all over the place, that is not an anxiety-reducing situation.”
Despite the potential impracticalities and debates, there’s no doubt flying cars have become buzzwords in the tech world. One specific company that stands out as soon as flying cars is mentioned is Alef. In 2023, the CEO of Alef told CNBC, these flying cars can be driven on the roads, right before they vertically take off and fly forward. They hope to have a live demonstration prototype of their commercial flying car by the end of 2023, as per what the CEO told Newsweek after the company announced it has already received 2,500 pre-orders.
Following that, as per CNN and Business Insider, California-based Alef Automotive has received FAA approval for its electric flying car, the Model A. It’s the first fully electric vehicle capable of both driving on roads and taking to the skies to receive US government certification. The Model A features vertical takeoff and landing capabilities and is designed as a two-seater vehicle with a broad range of 200 miles and a flight range of 110 miles.
The FAA has issued a Special Airworthiness Certificate, allowing for testing and development purposes, including exhibition and research. Alef emphasized that its vehicle stands out from previous eVTOLs. Their vision is to provide a solution to modern congestion, enabling faster and easier commutes without the need for runways. While the Model A is considered a “low-speed vehicle,” Alef’s flight capabilities offer the option of faster routes for the driver.
The vehicle’s design ensures a stable ride and flight, with occupants safely secured during aerial travel. Alef is thrilled with the FAA certification, bringing them closer to providing an environmentally friendly and time-saving commute that can save hours each week for individuals and businesses alike. Alef aims to begin production and deliveries by the end of 2025. Additionally, the company is working on a four-person sedan, the “Model Z,” scheduled for release in 2035 at a more affordable price of $35,000.
What Makes Flying Cars Gimmicky?
With all the recent developments and approvals, flying cars have garnered attention and excitement as a potential futuristic mode of transportation. However, there are valid reasons why they can be considered gimmicky and impractical. Here’s why:
The most practical reason for using transportation is to get to places quicker, right? If you divide traveling into 3 relevant categories, you get a short range of up to 50 kilometers, a mid-range of 50 to 500 kilometers, and a long-range of above 500 kilometers. These distances can be covered by opting for bikes, public transport, cars, trains, and airplanes. Now, the thing about flying cars is they are not as fast as you may assume because their top speeds usually reach up to 200 kilometers per hour. Such speed is not comparable to trains and airplanes by any means. To top that off, flying cars need to be landed near your illuminated destination. Also, if the weather is bad, the flying car is a big no-no.
In case of mass adoption, the dangers a flying car poses will cause fatal accidents. Since it’s almost like a sports plane, it can crash into residuential areas and no-flying zones without prior warning. That means flying cars need to be banned from human settlements, military installations, airports, seaports, nature reserves, migratory bird routes, and high-voltage cables.
The widespread adoption of flying cars will depend heavily on public perception and acceptance. There are challenges in evaluating public perception towards flying cars, including concerns related to safety, security, benefits, and willingness to pay for the technology as personal vehicles or shared mobility services.
The introduction of flying cars will require the establishment of appropriate regulations and incentives to govern their development, testing, validation, and deployment. Addressing safety and infrastructure requirements, while ensuring a smooth transition between manual and autonomous vehicle control and ground-to-flight dynamics, will pose significant regulatory challenges.
Technical Complexity & Training
Flying cars introduce new complexities in terms of airborne navigation safety, flight dynamics, and transitioning between ground and flight modes. Advanced virtual and live motion and simulation (M&S) methods will be necessary for testing and training pilots, maintenance crews, and other personnel involved in operating flying cars.
The development of flying cars may lead to the development of previously untouched lands by accident. This will increase urban sprawl and contribute to environmental degradation. Although flying cars are often battery-electric vehicles, any direct emissions reductions may be offset by the indirect emissions resulting from lower-density regional land use.
In addition to the aforementioned concerns, flying cars also raise significant noise-related issues. VTOLs (vertical take-off and landing vehicles) are likely to produce substantial noise, which can disturb communities and impact the quality of life for those living near potential flying car routes. In fact, noise pollution could become a significant drawback to the areas in the countryside where it’s supposed to be peaceful. If such meddling buzzing sound is produced in noise-sensitive locations, it may even affect your mental health!
Considering the drawbacks of flying cars, it’s important to explore alternative options for future transportation. Investments in public transportation, autonomous electric vehicles, improved urban planning, and sustainable mobility solutions may offer more practical approaches to address traffic congestion, reduce emissions, and enhance mobility without involving the complexities of flying cars.
Future of Flying Cars
While the concept of flying cars may be intriguing, these concerns highlight the practical challenges and potential negative consequences associated with their development and adoption. A comprehensive and thoughtful evaluation of their practicality, potential hazards, environmental implications, and public acceptance need serious reconsideration before turning flying cars as a viable transportation mode for the future.
To wrap up, while the concept of flying cars is undoubtedly fascinating, the limitations and potential negative consequences suggest looking beyond the gimmick and focusing on more practical and sustainable solutions to shape the future of transportation. Let’s embrace innovation but with a thoughtful approach to ensure a better world for all!