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Terrafugia Transition – Click above for high-res image gallery

Surely, you're familiar with the Jetsons, the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon world from the 1960s that was said to take place in the year 2062. Too futuristic for your blood? How about Ridley's Scott's Blade Runner, which starred Harrison Ford and was supposed to show life in the year 2019? And then there's Back to the Future II, which is even closer to our modern day, depicting life at 2015.

What's the constant in all of these retro-futuristic takes on what tomorrow may hold? Hoverboards. Flying cars. We're not sure about you, but we don't see no stinkin' flying cars floating down our streets. So, what gives? Besides reality, of course. Well... actually, reality is the key. The problem with flying cars from 50 years ago all the way until today remains the same: because the machine needs to operate just as capably in the sky as on the ground, compromises have to be made.

Compromises don't exactly equal success in the automotive or airplane marketplace. To meet government regulations, an automobile must pass a stringent series of safety and environmental tests, and the same is true for airplanes. Needless to say, then, combining the two is pretty darn difficult to accomplish. That said, Popular Mechanics has found reason to be excited about the prospect of the Terrafugia flying car. If that's a topic that interests you, we suggest you click here to read all about it.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      God could you imagine some lady in the holding pattern on her cell phone? f*k me I would kill myself before seeing the regular joe take to the skies...Flying isn't for morons.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Unfortunately, the Terrafugia is likely to suffer all the same problems as previous flying cars: it won't be a very good plane or a very good car. It will be very expensive. Repair will require using an FAA certified A&P mechanic.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "Why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here?!"
      • 5 Years Ago
      I would like to humbly submit that aviation actually is the future of transportation.

      IMO the only missing technology is power beaming. If power can be beamed from a ground station or stratellite, an aircraft could use electric motors and a very small battery pack.

      The aircraft itself is not a problem. An electric helicopter can be extremely simple and reliable.

      There isn't a problem with soccer moms piloting aircraft. I suspect in twenty years no one will be driving or piloting anything in public spaces. Automation will have fully matured, and your insurance company will therefore price non-automated travel beyond your reach.

      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm surprised nobody's mentioned (or I didn't notice) the fact that unless one makes a landing at the perfect attitude that tail is going to drag where there ain't no wheel. Not much margin for error.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Flying cars have always been a bad idea. Very few people have the skills necessary to fly an airplane. Most drivers on the road today would be dead in minutes if they tried to fly.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Instead of flying cars, I'd go for floating cars. Cars that have no contact physical connection to the road surface.

        Imagine the smooth ride you could have as you drive through poorly managed states and cities who do not put money into their infrastructure.

        Imagine no longer having to suffer suspension wear from those speed bumps that popped up in your neighborhood overnight.

        Imagine no more tires.

        Of course, that's such a dream to the point where i couldn't even tell you how it could be done, ha. Maglev isn't such a great option for cars since if you get bumped off the road, you're screwed... plus you'd have to rebuild all that already poorly maintained infrastructure.

        The only option is a technology that doesn't even exist - anti graviton emitters.
        • 5 Years Ago

        In order to make a flying car, we'd basically need exactly what we saw in Back to the Future II.

        #1 an air control system for traffic overlaying a ground control system for traffic
        #2 cars with built in antigravity drives
        #3 pressurized cabins
        #4 safety systems and regulations keeping older cars out of the sky, and ensuring a car that crashes doesn't burn up an entire building or a block...

        AFTER 9/11, FLYING CAR WILL NEVER HAPPEN...but I will say this, if there are ever flying cars, you can bet buildings will have surface to air missiles or machine gun turrets.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The main reason is the carnage would be on an epic scale if all of today's drivers took to the skies.

      Plus, we would have to start installing crumple zones and air bags in all our buildings. ;-)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Or the old guy that goes barely fast enough to keep it flying, with the blinker constantly on.
        • 5 Years Ago
        lol, I can just imagine the nightmare soccer mom of the future flying her kids to practice in a 32-passenger double-decker mini-747, on her cell phone and never using the signals...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Drivers in America have enough problems with driving in two dimensions. They'd have a whole heap more issues with that third dimension, especially because it involves gravity.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I both love and hate Popular Mechanics.

      They always have such cool technology, but at the same time, at least 50% of the stuff they show off is fantasy-land stuff that is completely impractical... and flying cars is one of their most common examples.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Two things:
      First, all the flying cars you mention have one thing in common - lack of wings. Hovering is the key activity of all these vehicles, the Star Wars land speeder, etc. Without that, you got nothing.
      Second, that god ugly contraption that's making the rounds of the web is far less a flying car than a drivable plane. Big distinction there, that all the press has failed to articulate.
        • 5 Years Ago
        exactly - the point of flying cars in sci-fi isn't "cars that can fly" - it's anti-gravity. That in the future we'd have defeated the menace of gravity and we'd no longer be stuck to the ground. So the hoverboard in back to the future is really the same thing. (I'm still rooting for a 2015 remake of Back to the Future in which Marty McFly goes back to 1985 to try to find out what ever happened to Hughie Lewis and the News - I guess that would be more a vh1 special than a feature movie).

        But yeah, the whole flying car thing isn't about personal airplanes, it's about anti-gravity, and science finding a way to break free of the basic laws of physics. If you have anti-gravity you can trust people with flying cars, because you have the ability to stop in mid-air to avoid a collision. Flying cars without anti-gravity are really just airplanes that you can drive on a road - not flying cars, drivable airplanes.
      • 5 Years Ago
      One of the major problems is propulsion. Until a powerful and efficient method is utilized we will be driving for a looooong time. (Unless the Military are hiding secrets as usual)

      Car and Driver recently did a very funny and interesting article on the same subject. A good read:

        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, in the 60s after the breakthrough with fission, it was thought that a fusion breakthrough would happen shortly thereafter, giving us free power. Instead, all of those intellectual resources that would have been used to make vehicles with super small fusion power sources, they're still being taken up by the search for free energy.
      • 5 Years Ago
      The real reason: Most people do not want those that can't drive in 2D attempting to drive in 3D. It takes a good amount of training to become a pilot, and for good reason. It's not for everyone and will never be. Not until the day that it can be fully autonomous will we see any sort of common aerial transportation.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That Terrafugia looks as aerodynamic as a turd.
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