For years, people have been wondering when the general public will have access to flying cars. Even now, these magical machines that combine air and ground travel are in development all across the globe. Since the early 20th century, people have been trying to build flying cars — so why don’t we have them now?
The problem with a machine that both flies and drives is that tomake it safe enough to be on the road where it may be in an accident, the car portion must be heavier than the maximum takeoff weight of the plane portion, meaning that it couldn’t fly effectively.
In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in flying cars. This has been sparked by the development of electric batteries and their possible applications to car-plane hybrids. With the use of electric batteries, we have already seen many fully-electric cars and a few fully-electric planes.
The problem is, for a car to have wings and takeoff like a normal airplane, it would need a lot of open space, and preferably a proper runway. This contradicts the main argument for having flying cars in the first place: congested city traffic. If a car needs a long stretch of road to takeoff, then it is unsafe for that car to attempt a takeoff in a crowded city. To circumvent this, companies have started designing cars that are similar to drones, so they are able to take off vertically and don’t need a long stretch of road to get into the air.
Safety and Regulations
For safety and regulations, car-planes must be certified by both the DOT and the FAA in the United States to ensure they are safe. There are many steps that companies have to go through to even be considered for getting their vehicles certified. As more prototypes for flying cars are being built, manufacturers are finding that it’s very complicated to build a vehicle that can easily transition from the road to the skies, and be safe doing so.
Are Underground Tunnels a Better Idea?
The Boring Company, founded by Elon Musk, is working on tunnels under cities to transport cars. While it would be bleak and a bit dark for passengers, they could get to their destination much faster. From the surface, cars will drive onto platforms which will lower them down to varying levels. Afterwards, the car will be properly secured to the moving platform and it will be taken on its way at speeds of up to 200 kilometers per hour, about 130 miles per hour.
In the labyrinth of tunnels under major cities, cars will be able to traverse great lengths in no time — without any traffic. If this seems so great, why are more companies not interested in tunnels rather than flying cars? The answer is complicated, but essentially it’s the upfront cost. While designing and testing a flying car is expensive, it pales in comparison to the enormous cost of setting up a network of tunnels at different levels under densely packed cities.
Elon Musk reportedly said that just one tunnel of the entire network he is planning to build cost $10 million per mile. Now think about how many miles of tunnels will have to be built to efficiently transport a good amount of vehicles from place to place in a massive city such as New York of Los Angeles, and the money starts to rack up quickly.
The benefit to flying cars is that almost all prototypes and designs so far have been fully electric. This means that flying cars will be saving consumers money on gas, as well as saving the planet as a whole and cutting down on climate change. This also means that users will have the ability to charge their vehicles at their houses or wherever they choose to keep them.
In a crowded city, vertical takeoffs are the way to go for flying cars. However, it is immensely complicated to create a vehicle that is both compact enough to drive on the road and has enough power to takeoff vertically. This is where the design of the electric battery is crucial. Companies are constantly trying to reduce the size and weight of their batteries while also increasing the power. It is a difficult task, but one they don’t take lightly.
In the Future
In conclusion, the design and testing of flying cars have already cost companies tens of millions of dollars, and no one has truly mass-produced anything yet. So this begs the question, is it worth it? The short answer to this question is yes, it is. According to Morgan Stanley Research, the market for urban air mobility is expected to reach $1.5 trillion by 2040. Upon their arrival to the public, flying cars will not be what past movies and media has portrayed them to be. In fact, they will be more like large drones than anything else. Eventually, flying cars will become available for the public, but they will be expensive considering all the money that was poured into their initial design.