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Flying cars is not a big deal, where to land them is!

Jump on a take off. This car really flies! Image credit: Petersen Automotive Museum

Flying cars were part of my imagination as a child. I took them from comics snd I still remember when Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon newspapers snd magazines foresaw flying cars buzzing around by the end of the century. Of course, we got to the Moon, it was just natural to expect flying cars in thirty years!

Yet, flying cars were nowhere to be seen in the year 2000. After 20 more years, however, we have seen “flying cars”, well not buzzing over our heads in our cities but on television and as very expensive prototypes well beyond our affordability.

However, it is not about affordability, at least not now. Even if you have very big pockets it would be difficult to buy and, even more difficult, to use a flying car.

Today, 2022, there are a few flying cars that could be bought, with price tag ranging from 300,000$ up to 3.5 million $ and a flight range between 300 and 800 miles. Not cheap. Be careful, when I state that today you could buy one of these flying cars does not mean that after cashing your check the company offering the car will deliver it to you. What you pay for is the right to have the car when it will be available and the estimates are between next year and 2030.

The real problem with flying cars today is not the technology. We have what is needed to put wings to a car. What we are missing is a regulatory framework that would clarify how the car can be used. And the big problem is not the flying, rather the landing.

You can take off and land at an airport, and there are plenty of small airports that could handle that. The problem is that if you are supposed to use airports you can as well buy an airplane (and then swap it for a car once landed). The idea of a flying car is to park it in my backyard, take off from there and land in a parking lot near the place I need to be. Well that is simply not possible, at least in the current, and foreseen regulatory framework.

The next few years will be crucial for the future of the flying cars industry (start ups now). There are a few prototypes and a real flying car is now on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum.

Transportation by drones, and autonomous drones, is nearer. Flying taxi-drones are expected to start service this year in Dubai and Singapore. These are flying objects and are subject to the same rules applying to helicopters and we already have them. They can land on heliports on the roof-top of buildings (helipads)  and that is a place that would not make a lot of sense for a flying car (you can’t drive anywhere from a roof-top).

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.