back to article What’s that in CES heaven, is it a star? Or is it that damned elusive flying car?

It was almost exactly 20 years ago – January 6, 2001 – that Reg reader Erik Trent wrote to us bemoaning the tendency of tech journalists to repeat futuristic nonsense. In this case it was about pub robots that will "look directly into your eyes, calculate exactly what you want to drink, pour it and add it to your bill." Erik …

  1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Fiat

    Does at least have history as an aircraft maker: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiat_Aviazione

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Fiat

      Yes, it was known for still making biplanes in WWII, sold as fighters, and being able to sell them because it has been always very cozy with governments, any kind of government....

      BTW FCA is now (+ Peugeot) "Stellantis"....

      BTW, it looks increasingly complex to find new names for companies. Last time I checked "Joby" made small tripods for photography, and "Beta" made hand tools.... did they pivot to aviation and flying cars? <G>

  2. Joe Gurman

    I want a flying taxi

    With Korben Dallas as the driver.

    1. KittenHuffer Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: I want a flying taxi

      Bigga! Badda! Boom!

    2. aregross

      Re: I want a flying taxi

      That is exactly what I thought of when the 'flying taxi' was mentioned!

    3. HildyJ Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: I want a flying taxi

      Forget the taxi, I want a Multipass.

  3. Joe W Silver badge

    only advantage...

    ... regular medicals for the pilot, so once they are too old and reactions, eyesight, etc. are no longer good enough they can be denied the renewal. And I seriously hope somebody stops me with my regular ground based travel driver's license when I'm getting too old (not in age but in reaction, eyesight, etc.) to still safely drive. I do expect this to be in the faar away future (hm... in 20 years?), and of course I will be unhappy, but it really would be better. And I hope my future self agrees.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: only advantage...

      Don't worry about driving when you're too old.

      Magistrates don't like to be nasty to OAPs so you are likely to get off with a slap on the wrist if you kill someone.

    2. hoopsa

      Re: only advantage...

      I'd have thought that these would be ripe for automation though. The problems to solve for flying an aircraft are a lot simpler than driving in traffic.

  4. macjules Silver badge
    Meh

    Great, all we need

    An assault on the Capitol building in 2024 by Florida men in their flying SUVs.

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Great, all we need

      Oh ...

      Those ...

      Maga-ificent Men in their flying SUV's,

      They go up tiddly up up,

      they go down tiddly down down.

      They enchant all the voters and steal all the seats,

      with their up tiddly up up

      and their down tiddly down down.

      & etc etc

      /leaves hastily

  5. don't you hate it when you lose your account Silver badge
    Coat

    Johnny Cab

    I'll get ma coat

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Johnny Cab

      Would that be with ribbed seats?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Johnny Cab

        I'm sorry, I don't understand the question?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a multi-sensory experience choreographed for more intimate journeys.

    Great, instead of drones on the Gatwick flight path we'll have drunk prom queens flashing their t*ts at the pilots of landing 787s.

    1. LDS Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: a multi-sensory experience choreographed for more intimate journeys.

      The car Epstein dreamed about? Where a woman has no chance to escape?

      I wonder what drugs GM PRs are using....

  7. Big_Boomer Silver badge

    Ohhhh goody, another flying car that hasn't been built. Forgive me but this is worse than Fusion power production. It'll happen after most of us are dead and gone, if at all. Move along, nothing new to see here.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      "if at all"

      I'll stick my neck out and say that personal flying cars will never happen within the forseeable future. The changes necessary in city and town centres are too big to warrant the effort with regard to the potential advantages.

      Though, with the advent of the virally imposed 'New Normal ™' rearing it's ugly head, there may be scope for gradual restructuring and change in how cities and towns are built.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: "if at all"

        Automated electric quad-copter style taxi between LHR/JFK and the roofs of parking lots downtown is fairly likely. Safer / quieter / cheaper than helicopter + pilot

  8. Phones Sheridan
    Pint

    Barkeep, pour me a..... wow that was exactly what I wanted!

    "In this case it was about pub robots that will "look directly into your eyes, calculate exactly what you want to drink, pour it and add it to your bill."

    I think the author of this quote was ahead of his time. We're all so profiled now that I believe this to be entirely possible, that and AI probably could establish a correlation between a snapshot of your eyes, and your desired drink given enough samples. I volunteer to be a test subject!

    1. Mark 78

      Re: Barkeep, pour me a..... wow that was exactly what I wanted!

      I suppose it could currently be done by using a retina scan to identify you and then checking a database of the drinks you have previously ordered. Would that pass as "looking into your eyes and calculating the drink you want" ?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Barkeep, pour me a..... wow that was exactly what I wanted!

        Ah, welcome Mr Spartacus. Based on your previous visits I believe you want a pint of IPA mixed with Belgian fruit beer with a cherry on top and a gin&whisky chaser. And if you don’t, you've already been charged for it, so you might as well shut up and drink it. Share and enjoy!

        1. Roger Kynaston Bronze badge

          Re: Barkeep, pour me a..... wow that was exactly what I wanted!

          Share and enjoy! Is this the rise of the nutri-matic then?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Barkeep, pour me a..... wow that was exactly what I wanted!

            Coincidentally, ordering a pint of IPA mixed with Belgian fruit beer with a cherry on top and a gin & whisky chaser is the only way of getting a Nutri-Matic Drinks Dispenser to make you a beverage that tastes almost, but not quite, entirely like tea...

            1. Chris G Silver badge

              Re: Barkeep, pour me a..... wow that was exactly what I wanted!

              There are one or two folks that I know who would be divined as requiring a gallon of creme de menthe followed rapidly by a wheel barrow and a robot to push it.

              Also are they going to produce a ro-barkeep who is a good listener, can nod at the right moments and look okay in a low cut top?

  9. MrBanana

    Jet packs

    At least one future tech product promise has been fulfilled (sort of). Ever since Mr Bond flew a jet pack in Thunderball it has been the other flying device the public has been denied. That was until that bloke strapped a couple of mini jet engines to his wrists. Pricey though, and probably only suitable for supervillains - not for nipping out to the shops for 20 Rothmans and a pint of milk.

  10. Nodrog

    You can keep your flying cars, I'm waiting for those marshmallow pies...

  11. bsdnazz

    Physics

    Small flying machines + tall buildings + gusting wind = splat

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Physics

      Or splash!

      What possessed a company to name their future flying car The Splash?

      Although I suppose Boeing could use it to rebrand the 737 Max...

    2. Psmo Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Physics

      Or windmills.

      When a tit hits the fan?

      1. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

        Re: Physics

        When a tit shat the fan.

  12. Down not across Silver badge
    Pint

    Cheers Lester!

    Couldn't agree more, that Lester was taken too soon. I do miss his articles.

    Nice that he is still well remembered and referred to in articles.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intimate experience

    The comment about a multisensory intimate experience may just be trying to prepare prospective customers for the realities of flying in a 2 seater aircraft. Most side-by-side cockpit light aircraft fit the pilot and co-pilot into about the same space as the driver's seat in a car. In such close quarters, you can certainly hear, see touch, and smell the person sat next to you. Definitely a multisensory experience.

  14. imanidiot Silver badge

    Flying without wings is super inefficient. Small "personal" flying craft will never be common and they will never be allowed to fly over cities. Accidents in aviation happen. GA accidents happen more often than people think, but nobody worries about it because all the procedures in place make it unlikely for anybody but the occupants of the plane to get hurt. If hundreds of thousands of small craft were suddenly allowed to fly over built up areas it's only a matter of time before "Flying car plummets into childrens bedroom, 3 killed in horrific crash!" becomes a headline. Unless we can invent some sort of fail-proof (or super highly reliable at least) anti-gravity drive, flying cars just won't happen.

    1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge
      Happy

      or have bouncy roofs

  15. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    Roads?

    Looking back at the origins of the concept of the flying car it was never a road going car that could fly. The idea was more a personal air vehicle which fulfilled the role of a car. It would take off at the start of the journey and land at the end of it. In other words: Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.

    Somewhere over the years though the idea mutated into one of a road car that could fly. The number of problems with this concept is almost insurmountable. The most basic is a car which meets with all the legislation required in most countries tends to be very heavy indeed. Then there's all the home comforts that most drivers insist upon these days (well hardly home comforts, most people's cars are better specced than their houses, what with climate countrol, heated and air conditioned seats with built in massagers and the like). Add the means to provide lift and airborne control and you are adding even more weight thus making for a very impractical aircraft. Then there are more esoteric considerations, if you've ever flown a light aircraft you'll know about all the preflight checks. If you clock some exterior damage you're not just going to take off. How often do cars get minor bumps in car parks and the like?

    So building something that's practical and legal for both air and road would be problematic.

    Then of course you would still need somewhere to take off. I can't see the authorities in any jurisdiction being happy with the idea of a rolling takeoff from a public road. As such you would probably need to drive to an airstrip to take off. You'd obviously need to land at one too and then drive to your destination.

    So the original concept of a convenient personal air vehicle that fulfills the role of a car would be a lot better than the idea of a car that can also fly. And we already have something that comes pretty close to that, the only problem being cost. Small choppers (ooh errr, obviously) are available but they ain't cheap. Well an R44 may be pretty cheap for what it is, but it costs a teeny bit more than a Nissan Micra. However an R44 ticks most of the boxes for me.

    There's a bloke just up the road from me who has one. He parks it in a field behind his house at night - yes he owns the field. He can land it over the road from where he works. He'll use the car locally, but says when he goes further afield he'd rather take the Robinson and get a taxi or hire a car when he gets there.

    Now for me the ideal "flying car" would be something VTOL but not a chopper, something with a smaller footprint. Then it could fulfil the same role as that R44 but without needing so much space to take off and land. Then you'd be getting there. After all it would be much easier to sort out permission to take off from your back yard than a rolling takeoff from the north circular. For me if it could carry a dirt bike I'd be sorted for transport at the other end as well.

    But of course the real issue with a significant uptake of flying cars of any sort would be congestion in the skies particularly over built up areas. At the moment a near miss involves pretty wide tolerances. If we start replacing road going cars with air vehicles then the proximity of air vehicles over densely populated areas would be terrifying. VTOL would be almost compulsory to deal with these situations along of course with the ability to hover and fly very slowy. As such I think the only way such a concept could take off would be with completely automated control of these vehicles in the air. After all would you trust most of the idiots you encounter in urban traffic to take charge of any aircraft other than a kite.

    1. DS999

      If it only flies then how is it different from a helicopter?

      What you're talking about is basically a helicopter that handles the difficult parts of piloting a helicopter so anyone can take the controls and point it where they want to go. The problem with a non road going "flying car" is that it would be treated as a helicopter so you aren't going to be able to land in your driveway, or anywhere near your house because the FAA (or your country's equivalent) will never allow it. I mean look at all the regulations going up for drones, and they won't kill you if they fall out of the sky onto your roof.

      So it has to have a road going capability to get from the places where it is acceptable to land to the places you actually want to go to/from.

      1. Grease Monkey Silver badge

        Re: If it only flies then how is it different from a helicopter?

        I think you're missing the point of a flying car. Look back to the days the idea was first mooted and nobody was suggesting something that could be driven on roads. They were talking about a personal air vehicle that would never need roads.

        The idea of a car that could fly is more recent and something completely different. However somehow in the eyes of the media it seems to have replaced the original idea.

        It would never fly however. No authority is ever going to allow takeoffs from public roads and without that it's entirely pointless.

    2. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

      Re: Roads?

      Air Borne Traffic jams; occasinal flying car falling due to fuel running out....

  16. vtcodger Silver badge

    Terrafugia

    These folks actually might be close to a real flying car. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrafugia They flew a prototype a decade ago with a real human in the cockpit (Is it still a cockpit if it's a car?). It'll be expensive -- roughly $300,000. And about the same payload as a Mazda Miata -- 2 normal humans and a small suitcase. And the driver needs a pilot's license. And despite a lot of promises, they have yet to actually ship even one vehicle. But they seem to have addressed most of the problems of meeting both aircraft and ground vehicle safety standards in a single "car" capable of flight.

    One wonders who will write insurance policies for these things and what insurance will cost.

    1. steelpillow Silver badge

      Re: Terrafugia

      "They flew a prototype a decade ago"

      and the launch customer is still waiting, right?

    2. A. Coatsworth

      Re: Terrafugia

      - Needs pilot's license.

      - Takes off from airstrip.

      The Transition was not a flying car, it was a Cessna that you could kind of drive on a road. And it is expected to be delivered in 2019 (!) so in reality it was vaporware.

  17. Daedalus Silver badge

    Once more with feeling...

    Yet again it must be pointed out that personal flying transport is a reality: the Robinson R22 small helicopter.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinson_R22

    It's the right price, and too bad if you need all that certification etc. to fly it. It there were a better engineered solution, or one that was cheaper, don't you think we'd have it by now?

    Consider also a certain Nick Mason, who flies his own personal copter, an Aerospatiale AS 350 Squirrel. That's personal flight.

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Once more with feeling...

      Exactly.

      The "flying taxi" is already here, and it's called a "helicopter" and Uber already sell rides... at least in San Francisco and London.

      However, they're really maintenance intensive and hard to fly, so if someone can come up with a better alternative, I'm all for it.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Once more with feeling...

        volocopter - to be really practical though they need to be automated

        1. Alan Bourke

          Re: MS' deep pockets

          "to be really practical though they need to be automated"

          So 100 times less likely to ever exist then, since we can't even get the ones that roll around to be automated.

        2. Daedalus Silver badge

          Re: Once more with feeling...

          Volocopter is one of the few outfits that actually understand the issues. The key is total rotor area: more area means less power for the same amount of lift. Also they put the rotors high, which is safer and also avoids ground effect complications.

  18. steelpillow Silver badge
    Trollface

    Where's my Artificial General Intelligence?

    Where's my flying car? I'll tell you where my bloody flying car is, It's in the garage rusting away, waiting for you lazy Reg lurkers to get my AGI working so it's safer to fly than a 737 Max!

    And I'll bet that won't change in 20 years either.

  19. Securitymoose

    Gerry Anderson predicted this in 1961

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supercar_(TV_series)

    Again, where is Science when you need it?

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