back to article Why flying cars are better than electric ones

Once upon a time, NASA had a flying-car programme. Then that was shut down, and a rather cheapskate annual flying-car competition was set up instead. This year there's a further downgrade: the event is no longer the "Personal Air Vehicle Challenge", but the "General Aviation Technology Challenge". It kicks off in California this …


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  1. Mark


    What's considered "minimum safe distance" in aeronautical circles? The one with HIGHLY TRAINED pilots? 2km.

    What speed will you go in your new hovercar? 200mph minimum? So where do you merge with the 70mph traffic? If you don't merge but land somewhere, where will these be placed and how will people get to them? You'll need ILS or similar to get them to land the same direction.

    A stationary electric car uses whatever number of watts you're expending on the radio, AC and lights. So the stationary traffic is a load of bollocks too.

  2. Richard


    The additional licenses for flying cars better be pretty strict (though ideally not expensive). Otherwise, there's going to be a lot of power cuts/toasted cows when pylons start getting hit, and maybe a few new 10ft sq skylights in people's roofs.

  3. Robert Grant

    I think there's a bit of bias in this article, causing it to drift to the right

    Picking at small details of the opposition's argument while coming up with nothing more than "arse-kicking" and some vague "it's green really" handwaving as one's own arguments is - let's face it - unlikely to fly.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    To all then greenies and lefties above....

    Mwhahahahaha .. you all make me laugh!

    You blantantly didn't even read the bloody article properly.

    I love the article, I love the idea.... I LOVE GLOBAL WARMING!

  5. david

    I don't trust most drivers in two dimensions...

    ...give them three and I'll be staying at home.

  6. frank

    High-powered, serious, arse-kicking technologies like aircraft

    C'mon. an aeroplane isn't 'high-powered, serious, arse-kicking technology'.

    The power plant, the jet, is a 'burning make air go big and make push' technology.

    That's really only one step above banging the rocks together.

    Agreed, some of the flight systems to stop the plane falling out the sky or make it go quite fast are clever, but the basic technology isn't.

    It's a bit embarrassing really that this is the best we can do as a species. Not something to be terribly proud of.

  7. Big_Boomer


    Sorry Lewis, but personal air transport is and always was pie in the sky.

    Maybe in 100 years, or even sooner if someone invents cheap anti-gravity technology and cold fusion.

    What we should be looking at is PIRT. Personal Independant Regional Transport. Basically these are 4 seater computer controlled cars that you don't own. Think of an automated taxi.

    They can daisychain on motorways reducing congestion and emissions (slipstreaming) and removing the idiot human from the control loop will lead to less downtime due to Joe Moron crashing because he paid more attention to his phone than his driving.

    If you want to travel long distance you can either pay for the PIRT to take you there or else it can take you to a railway station or airport.

    The ONLY other solution is de-centralisation. Move the jobs nearer the people (ie. get your companies out of the cities) which would help reduce emissions AND costs for most companies. Not only that but us workers would not have to waste 3 hours every day travelling in and out of a stinking, noisy, overcrowded city.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good observations, wrong conclusion

    Lewis, as you very well know flying cars are not being held back by poor PR or the narrow vision of modern people.

    The practicalities are never going to exist for them to be even desirable let alone economical. The technical difficulties will never go away either no matter what level of technology is applied. Amphibious cars are a much easier proposition yet they have proven time and again to be a solution looking for a problem.

    Don't give up the dream though Lewis.

  9. jolly


    "...give them three and I'll be staying at home."

    I hope that's the home with the re-inforced concrete roof!

  10. Dave Bell

    Kipling got it right.

    "With the Night Mail."

    I just hope ICANN doesn't morph into the A.B.C.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    Flying cars will remove the need for expensive roads?


    So do we get the flying 40 tonne truck, the flying milkfloat, the flying white van with all it's tools on board, the flying dustbin lorry, the flying jcb, the flying lowloader, the flying mincab to take you mates to the pub?

    People who belive this will replace the need for roads, clearly have their head shoved so far up their own arse, they are high on methane!


    can I have FoTW please, or do I need more capitals?

  12. Steven Jones


    Flying cars seem like an accident waiting to happen. In the US there are about 2 deaths per 100,000 flying hours of general aviation versus around 1.4 per hundred million passenger miles on the roads. Take an optimistic view that the average speed of general aviation is 150mph and there are two people on each plane, then that's a fatality rate for general aviation seven times worse than for road use. Given that long car journeys are (per mile) much safer than short ones, then it seems clear that it's a much riskier activity travelling by light plane than in a car (but probably not so bad as motorbikes).

    This is all against a background of relatively empty skies, reasonably well-trained pilots and good facilities. I suspect once the skies started filling up with these sort of things then we'd see a lot more problems.

    That's without throwing in all the problems of finding enough landing spots, people complaining about the noise of these things constantly buzzing overhead, traffic management, policing and so on. Congestion is bound to follow - there are only so many places to land these things and with massive increases in usage then approaches would rapidly get clogged up in any remotely urbanised area.

    Even if a viable flying car could be produced, then this is going to be a minority game of relevance to only a small minority of people and then only for a minority of their journeys (most journeys are local). A viable electric car would be far more useful to many more people on a daily basis than something designed only to address journeys in excess of 50 miles and more at a capital cost several times the price of current cars. Practical, light-weight composite cars could aspire to better than 100mpg equivalent, and maybe much better if a practical methods of storing electricity (or fuel cells) can be found.

    I have read better researched and thought through articles than this bit of fantasy land stuff. It reads more like something a young high-school kid would have dreamt up.

  13. neil

    From A Green Leftie

    Mwhahahahaha I also love global warming! I get a fat grant whenever I dream up a research project that I can link to global warming (however tenuous the link). And I can assure you I'm ludicrously minted!!!

    Not out to spoil your gas guzzling techno fuelled shallow life though I've got one of my own.....but just pause for a moment and think what underlies your lifestyle, your life even - cheap food! What does that depend on - oh, same as mine, the environment! Know it's a simple argument but you might fail to understand anything more intellectually demanding!!!

    Mine's the green anorak!

  14. james


    2km minimum safe distance is for large commercial jets (which have a turning circle of about the same) safe distance for light aircraft is a few hundred feet going down to a few dozen feet when you get to micro & ultralight craft.

    speed, size and turning circle all play parts, if the craft is small enough and not overly quick it will be maneuverable and have a much shorter minimum safe distance relevent to similar or slow moving craft.

    as for 'how are they going to land and merge with traffic' thats easy, short runway at the side of the road with a feeder lane, just like you see on motorways feeding onto access know what im talking about, those places where all that fast moving traffic merges with much slower moving traffic.

  15. Colin Jackson
    Thumb Up


    "The technical difficulties will never go away either no matter what level of technology is applied."

    Shome Mishtake Shurely?

    A fuel-efficient VTOL 'hands-off' system would clearly work. It could even be publicly owned (as in the 'automated taxi' idea above). We can't build one at the moment, but are you really saying we never could?

  16. Torben Mogensen

    Cable cars

    Traditional tarmac roads are, indeed, quite costly in preparation and maintenance, and they do take up a lot of space that could otherwise have been used for agriculture etc. But suggesting flying cars as a solution is naive: They can only fly if the weather is good, they are costly in fuel (even if they can go in straight lines) and I doubt they can be made so safe that you will never have one falling down in an urban area. And you will have congestion around financial districts when all meet at work at the same time.

    I think a better solution would be to replace roads with cables hung from masts and have cars riding on these much like cable cars / aerial traways. These can be made to cross open fields, rivers and even low housing without having to clear the land or build expensive bridges. Sure, the masts are expensive to build, but they would need less maintenance than tarmac roads and they would be safer too, as cars driving on the same wire can have distance/speed control a lot more easily than free-driving (or flying) cars. You will need fan-ins and fan-outs, but these are not that difficult to construct.

    You can power these with electricity through the wires, with immediate payment, which can easily be regulated according to area and time, so rush-hour urban "driving" is more expensive than off-hour rural ditto. The cars can be made fairly light, as they don't need heavy batteries or combustion engines. And you will be able to just key in your destination and let automation get you there in shortest time, taking "roadwork" and congestion into account.

    In areas with little traffic, you can have small or widely spaced towers and ensure that only one "car" (or a certain weight limit) is between any pair of towers at any one time, while you in more heavily trafficked areas can have stronger and closer towers, allowing closer spacing of cars, and you can even have several parallel wires where cars are automatically distributed. And it is easy to change direction of travel on wires according to traffic needs, so in the morning 3/4 of wires are inbound while in the afternoon, 3/4 are outbound. In less trafficked areas, you can even have traffic in both directions share the same wire, as long as there are occasional places where cars can pass.

  17. Dr. Mouse


    "Move the jobs nearer the people (ie. get your companies out of the cities) which would help reduce emissions AND costs for most companies. Not only that but us workers would not have to waste 3 hours every day travelling in and out of a stinking, noisy, overcrowded city."

    This is the answer. Almost everyone has ADSL/some other broadband. Using this & phone/video conferencing etc, almost all office workers would be able to work from home, reducing travelling for workers, and required office space for companies. With cost savings to both, the time savings for workers, and the reduction in traffic and carbon emmissions, everyone is happy.

    I used to take this into account when working out my hourly rates for contracting, and a lot of co's were quite happy to take me on for a reduced rate, working from home, plus pay me expenses and travelling time if I needed to go into the office.

    Of course many people would not be able to use such methods (e.g. workers in shops, manufacturing... etc) but it would remove a large quantity of traffic from the roads, so make life more pleasant for the rest of them.

    Then push for more shopping over the internet (govt subsidies?), and you are another step closer.

    There is one small catch. I remember a film where this had happened, and everyone became introverts who never left their homes, and hence the human race was dying out through a lack of sex. It may have been a porno though...

  18. Adair Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Flying round in circles

    Just going with it, for a moment... what happened to the good old autogyro? Cheap, not very fast, v. low take off and landing distances. The only thing really needed is the very clever software to navigate and control the whole package to keep `Joe/Jane Moron's' hands off the controls!

  19. Marco


    At this point I wouldn't wonder if Mr. Page's next article demands beaming and warp cores for personal transportation.

  20. Brian Miller

    Crap Crap and Crap on top

    @Mark "200mph minimum?"

    Crap (how many glider air frames have you seen that could survive at this speed? 0)

    "You'll need ILS or similar to get them to land the same direction."

    Crap. What about landing them 1 way on one side and another on the other side. Colour coded, with lights. Kinda like we have on roads. Also at lower speeds SIGHT is usually a good indicator if someone is approaching the wrong way, mandatory GPS system could help to mark other air users too, or a centralised RADAR station that feeds data to all in range. NO technological obstacles.

    "A stationary electric car uses whatever number of watts you're expending on the radio, AC and lights. So the stationary traffic is a load of bollocks too."

    True, but CRAP argument. When MOVING which is their job they do not have the efficiency when penciling in the energy cost to build the roads into remote locations, not drive as the crow flies etc as mentioned in the article.

    @ B.B.

    "Think of an automated taxi."

    Crap. How do you get it to pull over when you need to pee. where are they parked, how do they get to you in the first place, or do they travel until hailed? not very efficient in that case. Stil no crow flying direct travel.

    "They can daisychain on motorways........"

    Crap. And how do they respond to little Timmy running in front of the PRICT's. It stops them ALL, or mows him down with no regard. IF they cannot due to the laws of physics stop do they try anyway to limit the damage done? Technology has no answer yet.

    "Move the jobs nearer the people (ie. get your companies out of the cities) which would help reduce emissions AND costs for most companies. Not only that but us workers would not have to waste 3 hours every day travelling in and out of a stinking, noisy, overcrowded city."

    GRAND FINALE CRAP. Nearer the PEOPLE, OUT of the CITIES????? Heres is a clue, though I am sure you will just stick it up your arse. PEOPLE LIVE IN CITIES YOU FUCKWAD. I am glad you spend 3 hours a day driving to work, it keeps you away from SANE PEOPLE.

  21. Mark


    And the SAM system attachment!

    PS I wonder how New York would accept this method of transport around the replacement memorial for the twin towers....

  22. Sam


    The ONLY solution? What about work from home?

  23. Steven Knox
    Paris Hilton

    Broken comparison

    After setting the stage for comparing flying cars to ground cars in rural areas, you then go on to say: "Often the ground cars sit in traffic jams..."

    You don't drive much in rural areas, do you?

    Of course if you compare fuel efficiency between a rural air car solution and an urban ground car solution, the air car will win mile-for-mile. For a rural-to-rural comparison, once you factor in the costs of building the road (which by the way, can be less than you think in rural areas -- they often use just the dirt that's already there), you might still come out ahead with an air car. But if you have to rely on rural "traffic jams" to make your case, then you've got no case.

  24. Skinny

    Be Quiet

    I don't care about green or not green, safe or not safe, licenses or training. Al very important stuff I'm certain, but they all miss the point.

    I was promised a damn flying car when I were little by all the TV programmes around at the time, and damn it, I want my bloody flying car.

    I don't care if I fly it the once, crash into some idiot (or it could be me being the idiot) and die in a firey ball of er, fire, I want my flying car.

    Oh and a jet pack, and laser cannons, and a robot / monkey butler (delete according to personal taste)

    Mines the one with 'my other cars stuck in orbit' on the back

  25. W


    A discussion such as this is a nonsense if it doesn't include adequate consideration of a decent rail-based system*.

    £Xbn is to be squandered on unwinnable fights, a glofied membership card and accompanying database, X-amount of buildings to be subsequently demolished in the name of an international school sports day based vanity project under the guise of re-generation, etc, etc...

    But for all that wasted dosh we could quite easily fit the country up with a spanking new rail-based system, linking up every UK connurbation with 200k plus population. We could also integrate a decent urban mass-transit system** for each connurbation. And worthwhile Park&Rides*** could be linked in too, for reaching out into the more rural areas.

    This'd reduce the need for roads _and_ flight. Especially in the UK. That we do so much internal flying here is an utterly disgraceful absurdity that shows a chronic lack of ambition.

    It takes as long to get around on the train as it did 100 years ago, FFS!!!

    But instead of actually trying to even come close to attempting grand Engineering schemes for the good of the whole population, we'll carry on dreaming of the Jetsons made real. And fighting overseas. And printing cards & implementing dodgy IT projects. And building & knocking down gymnasiums in run-down cities.

    Priorities innit? But we seem happy to subscribe to Sky TV (+sport+movies) as an essential, and then complain about the relatively insignificat variations in the price of fresh food. So why am I surprised?

    * Not necessarily Maglev, but I'm thinking of that level of performance.

    ** Not necessarily trams or subways. Heave Monorails been given a truly fair chance?

    *** Worthwhile, as in better than a shady old piece of waste land-cum-designated as car park) and each of those, and also include

  26. Mark

    Re: doh

    So what is going to be the turning circle for these cars?

    Not a huge amount smaller.

    The technical difficulties of getting the small car flying without an idiot creating a lawn dart get bigger the smaller and more manoeverable the car is.

    The smaller the car, the more moving about will cause the car to cant.

    And the sort of fog that causes aircraft (of ANY type) to be grounded is very much thinner than the fog that would have drivers going less than the maximum speed at.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    RE: Colin Jackson

    "A fuel-efficient VTOL 'hands-off' system would clearly work. It could even be publicly owned (as in the 'automated taxi' idea above). We can't build one at the moment, but are you really saying we never could?"

    I said difficulties not impossibilities. In actual fact we could do it now but it's just not worth the effort or the cost.

    Technology gives more options in achieving something but it never affects the problems which need to be overcome to do it. The sky will always be wet, windy, cloudy and cold at times. Gravity will always make stuff heavy.

  28. Mark

    Re: doh

    So what is going to be the turning circle for these cars?

    Not a huge amount smaller.

    The technical difficulties of getting the small car flying without an idiot creating a lawn dart get bigger the smaller and more manoeverable the car is.

    The smaller the car, the more moving about will cause the car to cant.

    And the sort of fog that causes aircraft (of ANY type) to be grounded is very much thinner than the fog that would have drivers going less than the maximum speed at.

    PS if there are runways then these need to be able to handle the craft landing and modifying their speed on the runway while the next car is behind them. This increases the minimum flight distance between cars available and also ensures that you have a very much more limited area where cars can go from flying to rolling, increasing congestion.

  29. Mark

    Re: Crap Crap and Crap on top

    And how many microlights can lift a family of five and their luggage for their holiday?

    To manage to lift the sort of levels that "need a big car", you either need speed or VERY big wings, because lift varies with airspeed and wing sizes.

    Otherwise you need some sort of helicopter arrangement and we all know how fuel efficient THOSE are!

    Please, before you complain about my crap, wipe the shit out of your eyes and have a look at life first, yes?

  30. Mike Moyle
    Thumb Down

    Re: Cable Cars

    You're not really serious, right?

    Are you planning on building redundant lines of towers so that you don't have to shut the entire "road" down when you need to do maintenance on one "lane"? What about when emergency services need to get through? Or are you going to build these AND roads?

    As an in-city solution, where you can (possibly!) require all new high-rise construction to include cable-hanging attachments, this MIGHT work (although zoning and historic preservation districts would doubtless make planning and building one of these an absolute bear there, too), but outside of cities it's a pretty clear non-starter.

  31. Anonymous Coward

    A sure case of identity theft here

    Amanfromarse has stolen Lewis's account; Lewis's stuff has never been this rubbish before, whereas Graham's usually is.

  32. ian

    I'm not an aeromotive engineer...

    ..but I read recently that less than 1% of an auto engine's fuel is actually used to move the passengers, and that 99% is used by the engine in getting out of its own way (overcoming friction, sucking in oxygen, heating the atmosphere, etc.). I'd rather more research were put into correcting the internal combustion engine's terrible inefficiency than providing another Darwinian death trap for our specie's less adapted members.

  33. Big_Boomer


    Working from home is great for most IT people and some others but not much use for most factory workers and other "hands on" workers. Even then some IT people will be needed in an office unless you know of a way to hard-boot a server or rewire a network by remote.

    As for the problem of home workers not socialising and all going mad, hey, at least they'd be at home and not in a 1.5ton 4 wheeled steel battering ram driving like a selfish lunatic on London's roads!

  34. keith

    haha flying cars eh

    whatever next this is back to the future alright all we need is a hover board as your replacement skateboard haha lol although could it really be possible for a flying car hum you never know put it this way if it does happen then good by to congesting and congesting charges :)

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wait, wait

    Are you telling me I can program my flying car for any destination, and a robot will fly my fuel-oil and air bomb right there? Ok, not *my* flying car, yours then.

    Oh wait, I just remembered, the last time I typed in my mom's address on my dashboard GPS, it tried to drive me through a lake. Not so bad for a flying car, but I'd hate to bomb the take-out restaurant instead of the infidel's government office.

    I saw three cars on the roadside this morning. Will all three of these be falling out of the sky in your bright future? Maybe I don't even need to be a terrorist anymore. You will bomb yourself. Alah is wise.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    you obviously aren't a greenie

    "Move the jobs nearer the people (ie. get your companies out of the cities) which would help reduce emissions AND costs for most companies. Not only that but us workers would not have to waste 3 hours every day travelling in and out of a stinking, noisy, overcrowded city."

    this is just the opposite of what the eco-greenie-control freaks want. They practically demand that everyone live in a bloody city stacked one on top of another in beautiful car-free efficiency where everything you could ever want is just short walk or bike ride away and that mass transit (bus/train/?) is just a short block away.

    Great if you like living in the city; sucks for everyone else. I live in the country where I'm not on top of my neighbors and they're not looking in my front door every time it opens. Yes, it's nice to not work and be forced to live in some stinking city on top of 4 billion other people i don't want to see or be near every day....get over it. I still want my flying car!

  37. Burch


    I feel we're being short-changed by the lefty PC insanity which prevents Star Trek-style instant transportation, that would be way more green but if you demand this from your local car dealership they tell you they'll phone the police if you come back again. That's the level of conspiracy we're talking about here people!

    I also blame Greenpeace for the lack of levitation units.

  38. Adam Williamson
    Thumb Down

    Mike Moyle

    "What about when emergency services need to get through?"

    Well, *they'd* get to use the flying cars, of course!

    I'm surprised no-one pointed out the essential absurdity of this post yet, though: it relies on the idea that NASA gives a flying stuff about the environment. Yes, NASA, the agency whose purpose is to launch gigantic rockets into space at a fuel efficiency of approximately 0.000000000000000000000000001mpg*.

    * - estimated by holding down the zero key for half a second. HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC METHOD ALERT.

  39. Andy Bright

    Reading the whole thing?

    Seems a few people are forgetting that these PAVs would be fully automated, the only flying on the part of the 'driver' would be in case of emergency.

    On the other hand I doubt there would be much time to mess around with the manual controls if there was an emergency.

    Perhaps a PAV license should simply be something along the lines of successfully parachuting from the vehicle in a staged emergency. Those that survive get the license, those that die don't. What could be greener than pushing up daisies? The way I see it, that'd be win/win on both scores.

    Crashing into each other because of BSOD? That's the gamble, and no different from praying that your Linux Car will come with all relevant 'drivers'. No surfing porn sites while you're driving seems to be the order of the day, malware might make you late for work.

    Flames because most people will probably end up in them.

  40. Charles Manning

    PAVs and turbulence

    Merging with 2D traffic at 60mph is relatively easy with cars because cars have good responsive braking, acceleration and steering.

    Merging with 2D traffic on water is a lot harder because boats/ships have poorer braking and steering.

    Any flying vehicle has even less braking and steering. On top of that there's the problem of turbulence which makes control many times more difficult. You'd need 20 or more seconds between PAVs to regain effective control.

    Sure, with 3D you could make more lanes, but think of all the noise complaints and problems setting up the lanes.

    It seems to me that an effective rail network is a good way to break the 32mph effective speed of motor vehicles.

  41. Graham Lockley

    No change

    Doesn't matter how automated you make the systems, you will still end up with some arsehole in what looks like an overgrown cab with a 'Discovery' badge on it approx six inches from your rear...

  42. Adam Williamson
    Thumb Down


    "Seems a few people are forgetting that these PAVs would be fully automated, the only flying on the part of the 'driver' would be in case of emergency."

    This is a bit like saying "those opposed to nuclear power on safety grounds are forgetting that future nuclear power stations will be 100% safe thanks to future Super Awesome Nuclear Safety Technology". You can make *anything* make sense by, not to put too fine a point on it, making shit up.

    We can't build fully automated PAVs and there's not really an obvious roadmap to it which will let us be reasonably confident of being able to build them in the short term future. You can't really argue for the reasonably near-term viability of PAVs (and hence the validity of running a large-scale development effort to build them) if it involves assuming the existence of a technology which we have no clear timescale for the introduction of. Solve the automatic navigation system problem and then get back to us.

  43. Daniel B.

    Safety, Roads and Cities

    "This is a bit like saying "those opposed to nuclear power on safety grounds are forgetting that future nuclear power stations will be 100% safe thanks to future Super Awesome Nuclear Safety Technology". You can make *anything* make sense by, not to put too fine a point on it, making shit up."

    Isn't this basically the description for those "Pebble-Bed Reactors"? Ok, maybe not 100% safe, but the design being one with self-shutdown capabilities built into it screams of pretty good safety.

    @Big_Boomer: While I do think PIRT is a pretty nice solution (in fact, the concept is shown in "Minority Report" as a mag-lev system), I don't think moving companies OUT of the cities is a solution. I'd rather live closer to the city center, have my job at the city center and thus save time with shorter commuting distances. I'd say that a pretty good system would be:

    Home -> PIRT -> Subway -> PIRT -> Work

    where the Subway basically would cut over traffic on the long distances involved. Of course, having your workplace or home near a subway station would be even better ;)

  44. Adrian Esdaile

    The Ugly Factor

    "Practical, light-weight composite cars could aspire to better than 100mpg equivalent, and maybe much better if a practical methods of storing electricity (or fuel cells) can be found."


    There is however the physical law to overcome that All Electric Vehicles Must Be As UGLY AS SIN.

    You can't get around that. Ever.

  45. Martin Usher
    IT Angle

    Aircraft are fun -- but ---

    You take this thing weighing a tonne and you lift it into the air a kilometer or two or three. You then move it along in such a way that the power supplied counters it falling. You then drop the thing to the ground, dissipating the energy needed to lift it. You then claim its a really efficient way of getting around.

    You have to be kidding.

    Rail is a very economical way to move people and things around. Lowish rolling resistance and potential for energy capture and reuse.

  46. Anonymous Coward

    Okay, El Reg...

    I will give you this image concerning aircars.

    Imagine US Interstate 495 - the DC Beltway - in rush hour, in three dimensions. It'd make George Lucas' vision of Coruscant look deserted by comparison.

    You also mentioned that there would be some form of uniform traffic control. Well, put it this way, if someone were to hack the Wi-Fi-GPS traffic control system, and force everyone to land at'd make the famous car pileup in the original "Blues Brothers" movie look really tiny. Once.

    Me, I'd love to fly at exceedingly low altitude (like in Beggar's Canyon back home), but there's only one problem:

    The other idiots.

    Instead of deer running out in front of your car, there would be "Baby on Board" idiots who pay more attention to their kids than the road in front of them, and also the cell-phone yakker-drivers who should have their licenses stripped permanently. Then there's the people who'd cut you off (and ram you into a tree or cliff ledge), then the news would read "42nd driver of the year loses control of aircar and dies in a explosion - cell-phone video at 11. Suicide has not been ruled out." [Yes, the news media assume the stupid stuff first to grab headlines, as a rule.]

    There is some chaos in the universe that you can't tame. Stupid and inane drivers are one of those chaotic things you can't fix (except by pulling their licenses).

    And don't get me started on drunk drivers or student drivers in aircars...

  47. Martin Huizing
    Dead Vulture

    Downing street, August 3rd 2023

    Rookie: "Skies are clear sir. The terrorists seem to be waiting for something..."

    General: "For what? Ah, damn it! It's been too long I've been without coffee. I am losing it"

    Rookie slaps general in the face.

    "Keep it together sir."

    General: "Damn! Whose idea was it to have flying cars in the first place!?"

    Rookie: "That would be 'The Register', sir."

    General: "The who?"

    Rookie: "No sir, that was a progressive rock band from the 70's. I mean The Register, an IT related online magazine from the late 20th century. Generally good stuff."

    General: "Why couldn't they just stick to computers... *Sigh*"

    Rookie: "*Sigh*"

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Scary Proposition...

    Being a private pilot, I would not trust anyone in the air who has not been properly trained in dealing with both basic flying and emergencies, even if everything was computer-driven. Plus, since a flying car would place "road rage" at a new level, I would not want these flying cars near me unless I am a fully-armed Spitfire to knock out these maniacs. Too scary to think this as a viable transportation method.

  49. Torben Mogensen

    Re: Cable Cars

    Mike, I'm quite serious.

    As redundancy, you will in most areas have two wires, one for each direction. You can then at intervals put in cross-overs that allow cars to use the other cable. This means that when you do work on one cable, you can shunt traffic to the other, having the automated system schedule cars on the single cable. Sure, it's going to be slow, but that is always the case with roadwork. And changing a bit of cable between two masts is not going to take weeks, which is often the case for roadwork.

    Emergency vehicles can use the same system: The automated traffic control will shunt cars off one of the cables while the emergency vehicle passes. This is a lot better than relying on people to move their cars out of the way, especially since drivers only get a few seconds advance warning when an emergency vehicle approaches.

    The main problem with the idea is that it needs a large investment in infrastructure, on the same level as building a road network. And it will be difficult to make private persons invest in cars until there is an extensive network that reaches all the way to their homes. To alleviate this, you can give cars a small battery and wheels, so they can drive up to the nearest cable, making it a dual-mode system like TriTrack ( or RUF (

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Not safe

    So now I have to worry about auto parts, cigarette butts trash and other debris falling on my home and property from flying cars?

    I have to worry about an accident occuring overy my house and dropping on me?

    Great system!

  51. anarchic-teapot

    Can't see the problem for individual transport

    James Bond has been using rocket backpacks for years...

    And Christopher Lee had a flying car in "Man With the Golden Gun" anyway.

  52. Mark

    Not the solution

    Flying cars aren't actually a high technology solution to this problem.

    Now a teleportation system - thats what I call a solution. Likely to be fairly energy intensive but would present far fewer problems than flying cars.

    Of course the other more sensible solution is to use the phone / video conferencing to talk to people. Too many people travelling hundreds of miles to go to a meeting when we've already invented the technology to make that trip redundant.

  53. Mark

    Re: Not the solution

    Scott Adams pointed out the problem with video conferencing: why waste bandwidth transmitting pictures of people whose faces you'd rather not see in any case?

    Store a local picture representation if you want and animate that face.

  54. Sam


    I fully agree that some people will have to travel by the nature of their job, but aren't most factories outside city centres now? (The ones that are left, of course.)

    My point was aimed at the British populace who travel without technically having to.

    We need a statistician, what's the ratio of sedentary workers per working head of the population?

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Living/working urban/rural

    The reason cities grew was so that there was a self-sustaining concentration of industry and workers. the reason cities sprawled was either the motor car or the public transport system.

    People commute because of the demand for space in the densely packed cities. You can't buy a nice big house with a big garden in the city because all the nice big houses have been divided into apartments and the gardens are paved over. Or they cost umpty bajillion beer vouchers.

    If employers moved out of town half their employees would have further to go. Or they'd have to move to the side of town where their employer went, and any other workers would have a 50/50 chance of having their commute distance increased. Congestion might be partially addressed, but spreading things out will generally result in more need to drive (look at LA), so the reduction would certainly be less than proportional.

  56. Dennis SMith


    You have my condolences if you have to fly Cessnas.

    Get a ride in a Beechcraft, particularly a Bonanza or Debonair. If you do, you never fly a Cessna again.

  57. Mark

    Re: Living/working urban/rural

    It's now more people commute because they can't get a local job. It used to be that your workplace was in one place in town and you lived nearby. Then the workplaces stopped employing you and the moved out of town where nobody lived.

    It's a lot easier to get the sack than to move house.

    So you either drive to work or become unemployed.

    You could move, but then THAT workplace moves/goes out of business/RIF's you out and you have to move again.

    Add in that public transport was moved to "a business" rather than "a service" and you get accountants reducing service in small towns and villages because they don't make a profit. So the people there NEED cars now or go less often. And fewer people means that the price is put up or the system closed. And if the price goes up, fewer people still use it so it is still going to go out of service anyway.

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To fund.

    What is Nasa/US funding coming too, an embarrassment. They cancel their measly inadequate funding for investigating the feasibility of alternative space propulsion technology, cancel their measly funded research into a system for flying car. If any of these things came through they would greatly change the world, while producing great wealth for "US of A" manufacturers. A few people accuse the government over there of being un-patriotic. It is well worth the measly amounts they put in, in case they actually work.

    There are an awful lot of problems to overcome flying, it is not as simple as driving a car. Handling is dangerous, not like a car that relies on gravity and friction to hold to a road. Fuel economy is also an issue (remembering that Flying cars are to use skylanes apparently, not quiet as the crow flies).

    In my own designs ideas I have a number of potential solutions to over come many issues (I am an innovator) but don't aim for economy (or cost) of more than a V8 car. But if they claim 25mpg, I might get 50mpg, but using similar technology you could drive a car at equivalent to 100-200Mpg.

    You really need something that generally floats with low wind resistance, that can divert all it's power to propulsion. The link on airships. Been thinking of this, but you again are subject to wind forces. I have an proposal to cheaply get around this and stabilise in high wind, but the wind is as controllable as waves when you are dealing with huge surface areas. On a car I might be able to make it nearly as safe as a normal car and stable (but again, it would make a car even better) but an air ship is a big sail full of gas and not as safe. Also, landing airships for a neighborhood might also prove "undesirable". So you get to alternative (Startrek) technologies, with only one example claiming possible fruition that I can remember in my lifetime, and Nasa canceling funding on research that could go towards conserving energy in terrestrial transport and manufacture for competitive advantage through the propulsion research (ohh, yes boys, that does seem to better fit your governments economic agenda).

    One of the proposals Nasa was investigating (and I do hope this one is still going somewhere) was for a propulsion from a new form of reactor that generated a magnetic field to propel off the outflow from the sun. Could greatly save on the costs of future missions compared to current ongoing rocket and ion propulsions strategies.

    With China investing so heavily in research (even the government) the US better get off their collective backsides. The west lacks the guts to get off it's backsides and do something, we have become whiners on what we can't do rather than what we can do, and progressively when it is something we can do, it is about doing something to enforce what we cant do (environmental technologies in particular). Might as well go to China, except for the way people get treated (but that is changing too).

    But if flying cars do go ahead, it might be possible to make a road last for a thousand years if it is not used much (by the few remaining drivers, walkers, and horse riders, and transport).

    Wayne Morellini

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I just burst onto this site by accident and found it intriguing. Many good ideas (I try to look at the positive side of things - that's where real progress lies. Even when an idea is practically unuseable, it is beneficial to increase knowledge. Every unworkable idea is a starting point for an improvement, modification, or new idea.) It is good to share ideas in a profitable way that helps a society progress toward improvement.

    Most inventions of the past were looked upon with scorn and disdain until they were improved to the point of actually working. Then the scorners used them with joy (telephone, lightbulb, airplane, etc.) We need to allow those who are in the technical fields to continue to think through to completion their ideas. And the rest of us need to be thinking also so as to help improve their ideas but not to "cut their throats" so to speak.

    As an instrument rated private pilot, I too see some drawbacks to the idea of flying cars being available to all drivers - at the point at which the research was thwarted. But there are many things to consider which would overcome them. Is it wise to consider something that was mearly "in the works" as the final product? For instance, If certified pilots were the only ones privy to owning and operating a flying car, perhaps it would clear the roadways a quite bit even today. That is just one thought. There are many more ideas given in response to this article which are very good, such as teleconferencing when possible. Also, I like the article's comment about so much of the new technology going into our pockets and onto our computers (by trial and error I might add), but little of it being used to solve the bigger problems of our day.

    Many will laugh at this, but hydrogen engines have been given a debut in our country. Water is the source and the emissions is oxygen. Sure, many will immediately think of the Hindenburg, but today, hydrogen can be made to be used safely. Who would have thought that 100 years ago?

    The main point is there will always be new technology to be discovered. Let's encourage it - not hinder it. Thanks for listening and keep thinking!

  60. Kevin Kitts

    The problem with hyrogen...

    is that if something goes wrong, it goes wrong in a BIG way. We're talking explosion radii bigger than gasoline engines. Hydrogen-powered aircraft doubly so: added velocity + ground impact after 30,000-foot descent = cylinder-crushing impact and assured explosion.

    And yes, we're talking Hindenburg here. Not in the scale of the blast, but in the total consumption of the craft carrying the hydrogen. On the ground, anything nearby also gets fragged due to the blast radius.

    You'll never sell me on the "safety" of hydrogen. It's far too reactive, and unlike gasoline (a liquid), it's a pressurized gas, making it that much more volatile and difficult to handle safely.

    Oh, and by the way, releasing more oxygen in the middle of a city may make the air more breathable, but it will also increase oxidation of metals, too (not to mention create more ground-level ozone). That's what rural areas and rain forests are for (if idiots would quit razing them to the ground for housing).

  61. Mark
    Black Helicopters

    Re: Interesting

    Problem is this isn't an idea, it's "something I pulled out of my arse". An idea in the way you use it is something that could actually be built from the expression IF that idea.

    To put it in concrete terms, could you, from the information available from this site, create a flying car? No? Then there's no "idea" put here, just some hand-waving that helps nobody.

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