The wheel ranks right up there with the telescope and four-slice toaster in the pantheon of inventions that have moved humankind forward. But what if a circle in three dimensions had never occurred to anyone, and we all had just moved on without it? Perhaps we'd be driving around in Lucas Motors Landspeeders with anti-gravity engines. Or maybe we'd have the same cars we do today, just without wheels.
Last year, Volkswagen China began its People's Car Project, which gathered crowdsourced concepts for future VWs. Among the three concepts chosen from the submissions – the Music Car, a Beetle wrapped in LEDs that change colors to match the driver's choice of music; the Smart Key that can track the status of your car; and a a zero-emissions, two-seat Hover Car – it was the latter that earned a four-minute video showcasing its imagined technology.
We've shown you autonomous cars, like the self-driving system Cadillac says could be on the road in a few years. We've also brought you flying cars, like the Terrafugia Transition. Now Volkswagen looks to combine the two with a hovercraft concept, featuring an auto-drive mode.
During World War II, the Jeep was one of the key pieces of hardware that helped win the war for the Allies. By the time Vietnam rolled along, lousy roads and inhospitable terrain meant the helicopter had cemented itself as the troop transport of choice. But while both the Jeep and the helicopter are far more advanced than they were decades ago, the basic ideas are the same, and according to Popular Mechanics that could change – or more to the point, merge – soon.