back to article While Facebook reinvents Sadville, we still dream of flying cars

The researchers at the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan (UMTRI) sent me what may be the saddest opinion poll in the world. It asks the public: "Would you like a flying car?" If you think it's a question to which the only answer is yes, you'll be heartened by the findings [PDF]. Broadly, US men …

  1. Elmer Phud

    Transvision Vamps?

    How come all the talking heads often appear to have fangs?

    Is this the final verification for the anti-Zuck fans who constantly whine on about 'global domination'?

    1. Colin Millar

      Re: Transvision Vamps?

      Nah - it just means that Zuck finally got around to reading Snowcrash

  2. Elmer Phud

    And . . .

    If it only has flying rainbow cats and no flying penises -- -what's the point of it?

    1. David Roberts

      Re: And . . .

      Well, you could try and merge concepts and have a flying car shaped like a penis.

      A sort of refined E-type Jaguar, perhaps?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: And . . .

      Monkey Tennis?

  3. Alan Bourke

    Flying cars? Pft.

    Even less likely to ever appear in mass adoption than self-driving cars. Most people can't drive properly, why would you want them flying?

    1. Andytug

      Re: Flying cars? Pft.

      I would upvote this 100 times if it were possible.

      However, if someone can sort the 2D self-driving car (not a given) then perhaps the 3D-capable self-driving flying car is not completely impossible.

    2. Michael Jarve

      Re: Flying cars? Pft.

      Which is why we desperately need internet connected self-driving flying solutions that can only be started by signing on with the Face Book and can interface with my IoT juicer, so I don't have to suffer the trauma of using my phone to make juice while en route from work to home.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Flying cars? Pft.

        If you have self driving cars, self-flying cars is comparatively easy. A lot less to hit in three dimensions than two.

        I think we're close enough to self driving cars that if/when we get flying cars they can be autonomous only by law. That would solve a lot of problems that would have existed if we'd got Jetsons style flying cars packed bumper to bumper like he was lol

    3. Geoffrey W

      Re: Flying cars? Pft.

      What we *Really* need is Teleporters. Then we can stop people aiming projectile vehicles at each other.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Flying cars? Pft.

      Most people can't drive properly, why would you want them flying?

      Not quite a car, but probably a lot more fun: Admit you want it, regardless of the risk

      Now, El Reg, what were you saying about Silicon Valley not coming up with the goods?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Flying cars? Pft.

        Sure, I'd fly that thing over the water, just like I have jet skied, waterskied and so forth. Those things aren't risk free either - that's part of the reason they are fun - safe things are in general less fun.

        If it is using ground effects for lift, it wouldn't be practical as a flying car, because it would need a flat level surface. It might work over the a field, until you reached the first big hill...

      2. Mark 85

        Re: Flying cars? Pft.

        Not quite a car, but probably a lot more fun: Admit you want it, regardless of the risk

        So now we'll get drunken idiots flying over lakes as well as the drunk ones driving the boats? I note it does say "uncongested lakes" in the reference article but idiots are idiots.

      3. Putters

        Re: Flying cars? Pft.

        The Russians built a big one.

        Caspian Sea Monster in full "flight"

    5. Mark 85

      Re: Flying cars? Pft.

      Most people can't drive properly, why would you want them flying?

      To help fulfill the promise of Darwin's Law? The only problem would be collateral damage to innocents on the ground. Tis a conundrum.

    6. Halfmad

      Re: Flying cars? Pft.

      Why the f*ck would I want them flying above my house? Not like they'll be restricted to specific routes and of course the governance for it will take years and start happening properly AFTER it's started and AFTER several high profile crashes no doubt.

    7. Dr Dan Holdsworth

      Re: Flying cars? Pft.

      This reminds me of experiences I had years ago, training to fly hang-gliders. The group I was with were doing short flights off a valley side in the Dales. The wind was slowly getting stronger, had been all day. When my second turn came round, I did the usual "run like hell downhill" launch, but instead of the expected pull away from the ground, nothing happened.

      What had occurred was that the wind speed had gotten strong enough that instead of laminar flow over the opposing valley lip, down to the bottom and back up again, we were now getting break-away rotors of wind peeling off the opposite valley lip. These turned the wind from a strong uphill flow to gusts and occasional dead air.

      Visually, everything looked the same. Neither I nor any trainee had any clue that this might happen (although I reckon the trainers had it in their minds to watch out for). Now, imagine you have a random non-pilot in a computer-controlled aircraft, which at some point performs an emergency landing in a field somewhere.

      The cause: a thunderstorm visible on radar, not so visible to human eyes. A danger of downwards microbursts, hail and strong winds, so the aircraft HAS to land somewhere to avoid the danger.

      Imagine now that you're the poor helldesk techie on the other end of the phoneline as our unclued, over-paid businessman rants down the phone at the hapless operator about missed meetings, broken contracts and the like. Hell on earth as the moron customer is certainly not going to listen to sense, yet if the danger factor were ignored then his surviving relatives would certainly sue.

      Similarly the customer whose flight gets stopped or diverted because of a NOTAM for Purple Airspace over where he wants to go. Insta-rant over delays, which is much better than a short, painful visit from the RAF for endangering the life of a royal.

      This alone is going to prevent the widespread take-up of flying cars.

  4. Adrian 4

    Better cars

    I can't read about Silicon Valley's car design attempts without thinking about this old joke :

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Better cars

      Oddly #6 has come to pass only it says "check engine" for everything from engine over temp to a loose filler cap.

    2. 2Nick3

      Re: Better cars

      #10 is here. And while the button in my Honda it is labeled "Start/Stop", the Stop is in a smaller font size.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: Better cars

        and #9 as well. Especially Windows "Ape" and Win-10-nic.

        #9? #9? #9? <-- obligatory Beatles reference

  5. Francis Boyle

    I wouldn't mind a flying car

    I just don't want all the other idiots to have one.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wouldn't mind a flying car

      I just don't want all the other idiots to have one.

      Given the reported gender bias of (prospective) demand, I'd expect the idiots to be dropping out of the sky as foretold in the Weather Girls' 1982 song.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Attack by flying penises is just as much a threat in the real world.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge

      attack by flying penises - well, they did something similar in 'Tank Police'

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who'd want a flying car when you can have a jetpack! - I'm assuming those are stil going to be available in "the next 10 years"(*)


    (*) N.b. can I suggest the "Tomorrow's World" or TW (equal to 10 years) as a Reg approved unit of future time to be used in predictions. Seem to recall in a program looking back on Tomorrows's World one of the presenters commented that they invariably described new inventions as become standard items for everyone "within 10 years" on the basis that they wanted to make it seem relevant as something that would come to normal life so they needed a future time that seemed "soon" but not so soon that people would remember when it didn't happen - and tehy decided 10 years was about right for this

    1. Calum Morrison

      I remember giving a wee chuckle when they were previewing a mobile phone and suggested that one day, they'd be so universal, even kids would have them. What utter nonsense.

    2. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: Tomorrow's World

      To be fair, "10" years is a stock Futurologist answer to most things that are hard to do. It kinda works on a scale:

      We could see this/these in our homes/on our roads/up our rectums in:

      "5 years" means this is actually possible, protoypes are in the works or already built and in test. A 1 to 4 on the Bullshit-o-meter

      "10 years" means we think this might be possible, we're not sure yet and if it is possible it needs something that is 5 years away to make it work. 5 to 8 on the Bullshit-o-meter

      "20 years" Fucking forget it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Tomorrow's World

        "30 years": Fusion power, the Second Coming, contact with alien life, and honest, competent politicians. In that order.

    3. Steve the Cynic

      Well, there *are* jetpacks. Of course they only run for about 30 seconds and they are fuelled by high-purity hydrogen peroxide, so not good in the case of a fuel spill, but ...

      Oh, you meant *practical* jetpacks? Not going to happen...

  8. ntevanza

    Marvin says

    Facebook is already full of sad people, no additional investment required:

    This is a panel study, I don't think they tried to establish causation. But whether sad people flock to Facebook or Facebook makes them sad is, I think, a step further than I want to bother with.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    The only answer is yes

    The only answer from following the link to the study abstract, is a screen demanding a Login ID and Password.

    Or as they apparently say in Michigan "your Uniqname or Friend ID". Does this mean that if I had a friend with a Michigan ID I could use that?

  10. M7S

    "A preference was expressed for 3-4 flying cars"

    I expect this would be a fairly extreme form of ride-sharing then.

  11. Len Goddard


    I think I prefer Sadville

  12. Mage Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Flying cars?

    Show me that we have autonomous planes that don't need pilots and fully automated air traffic control all legalised and working.

    That the problem of irresponsible drones is solved.

    That we have genuine general AI instead of fake marketing of Expert Systems.

    Real autonomous cars on ordinary roads

    Mysteriously solved the environmental issue of emission and fuel consumption that makes private planes (of any size for less than 8 people) an elitist toy.

    Show me small lightweight aircraft able to handle worse average weather.

    The problems are not really technical. But the issues of the driver certification, traffic congestion, environment etc if it's not just to be a elitist toy. There is a noise issue for anything that has short take off/landing never mind VTOL. Been near a small helicopter taking off? Note smaller fans are much noisier inherently than larger ones for the same thrust (c.f. helicopter and harrier)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Solcing real problems is much harder than solving virtual ones.

    For a long time, IT addressed problems that could be handled just by solving some mathematical formulas, usually inside a fully controlled environment. Now it's trying to find new revenue sources in the physical world, where everything is much more complex. You still need to solve equations, but the result alone it's not enough.

    The flying car example, is good. In the physical word there are several constraints - size, weight, strength, power, range, load, safety, cost which don't exist in the virtual one. And really, the Silicon Valley engineer are not good at solving those problems - you don't just need some more processing power, what is need are new and real scientific and technological breakthrough. But what we see is mostly startups selling fakes to gullible investors. The fact universities have become so expensive they could cut out really valid people, while Silicon Valley doesn't like to pay taxes to fund the educational system doesn't bode well. Sure, more zombies available to wear your VR headset if they can afford it, but it looks quite like Idiocracy.

    Anyway, I hope we get the autonomous car before the flying one. Flying is much more difficult than driving, and looking at the average driver competence...

  14. sebt


    "It's striking how much more ambitious the public is than technologists. Perhaps the public is naïve in wishing for a flying car."

    Perhaps they are. But the public are ambitious because they're using their imagination - something that's utterly lacking in the current crop of supposedly bold, disruptive "technologists".

    I'm not talking about people who try to make a flying car a reality: they're really up against the technical challenges, and trying to find an imaginative way round them. I'm talking about smug idiots like Zuckerberg, who think that extending the reach of his ad-slinging FB empire counts as "imaginative" or "disruptive" just because _he_ thought of it. Or the dickwads who come up with a juicer that only works when connected to the Internet, and then only with the company's proprietary plastic packs of fruit.

    If people like that came up with a flying car, you'd have to insert IoT probes into every one of your bodily orifices, feeding the great advertising maw with data, before you could even start the engine. Like that wheel-you-sit-in in that South Park episode.

    1. Eddy Ito

      Re: Technologists?

      The ambition and imagination of the public stems from the fact that they aren't bounded by the "how can I further monetize my existing platform to wring a few more dollars from fools" Silly-Con Valley mindset. In the valley it's gone full circle from "I made a neat app but how can I make money from it?" to "How can I attract more people who will give me free data to sell to advertisers?"

      The zombie apocalypse is already here. Most people were caught unaware as their brains were sucked out through a touchscreen.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Technologists?

      if Zuck were serious about flying cars, he'd have an R&D team secretly working on it and only talk about it when it's about to go public. Anything ELSE is just bragging.

  15. mix

    "Broadly, US men are more enthusiastic about flying cars than women"

    I'd rather have the woman.

    1. Jim-234

      In the end, the flying car would be cheaper

  16. Phil Bennett

    Video calls?

    "hold up their phones and have a regular video call where they can see their actual friends?"

    Do people actually use video calling? I've only ever used it to speak to far-flung friends and family there is no chance I can see in person in the near future - I don't think I've ever had an actually mobile video call. Hell, hasn't voice calling fallen off a cliff?

    Virtual spaces sounds like an amazing utopian idea, it's just a shame you have to let real people in who spoil it all. Perhaps someone like Greg Gopman can pop up and suggest a terrible solution that can be hyped for a couple of weeks.

    1. Jim-234

      Re: Video calls?

      I actually know lots of people (myself included) with friends / family in other cities / states / countries that do video calling on mobile phones using Skype.

      Basically just as easy to use as doing a voice call and more fun then texting when you have time for a quick chat.

      Virtual spaces are great for when you want to anonymously let your freak flag fly with other like minded adults who would also prefer to stay anonymous & safe while engaging in ones preferred fantasy.

      So NOT a facebook run virtual space then...

  17. markeymark

    Ready Player Zero....

    Or has Mr Zuckerberg just read "Ready Player One" recently and fancies creating that world just before the movie comes out....

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its worse than that...

    Flying cars aside we get to endure constant IoT / AI / Bot hype instead, because most of the media is shallow or has been inducted into a tech cult.

    Yet we're all still hoovering where bots can't reach, manually cleaning bathrooms, changing bed-sheets and home cooking, with no AI / Robots in sight. So why is big-media not scrutinizing the cr@p IoT products on offer?

    The tech bubble has samey thinking execs that are way overpaid and even more lost. I want the Jetson's leisure lifestyle and linking to a smartphone or having a fridge with a screen, isn't it. I want to be able to say to an IoT device:

    * Did you cook the dinner?

    * Did you do the washing up after?

    * How about cleaning the bathrooms?

    * Changed the bed sheets yet?

    * Done with that? Bring out the Pal-V!

  19. Timbo

    Virtual World?...again?

    Reading this article about MZ and FB, I'm reminded of something from over 20 years ago: CompuServe WorldsAway....

    I found this website that shows some of the info - I'm sure a trawl of your fav search engine will find more.

  20. cosmogoblin

    15 Million Merits

    I've seen this before ...

    An excellent episode of Black Mirror. But don't watch it alone - you need somebody's arms to cry into at the end in despair for humanity.

    Which is how I feel after following that FB link. Thanks so much Register...

  21. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    "A preference was expressed for 3-4 flying cars"

    They'll have to be very big flying cars to get everyone inside

    Does he mean perhaps 3-4 seat flying cars perhaps?

  22. Mark 85

    We were promised the innovation cupboard was an endless larder of riches. Maybe it's just empty?

    Not empty... full of recycled lard... over and over and over again.

  23. Captain Boing

    what the actual phuq???

    I want off this rock

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the nextevolution of indoctrination and propaganda

    "target" another service at the most reactionary and least experienced demographic. "raise awareness" of the things that empower the Powerful and leave out the things that lead to independence.

    Kids buried in hoodies and headphones, only able to see what's right in front of them, and the big market is taking over that small window with their own "augmented" versions of reality.

    Keep em busy with BS, distracted with Issues, tell them they're Relevant and Empowered even while removing relevance and power, and allow them some useless "venting" and give them something to blame all their issues on.

    Huxley is Social Media Moguls' instruction manual.

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