In Walt Disney's vision of the future, robots would talk, holograms would deliver the news and cars would fly. We've got the first two, but flying cars still seem to be beyond our grasp. Or are they?
This week the New York International Auto Show will include a flying car called the Terrafugia Transition. The company doesn't call it a flying car - rather a "readable aircraft" or a "street legal airplane" but it's folded wings betray it's true identity as a bonafide flying car. The unveiled the car in its final form on Monday saying: "From home, to the airport, to where you really want to be. All in the Transition Street-Legal Airplane, all on super unleaded autogas, all on your schedule.”
Terrafugia itself isn't new - for a few years aviation buffs have been able to buy the contraption for $279,000. Now, they're bringing the winged car to the masses, hoping to find the right market and demand for the odd little vehicle. The car made a successful test flight in upstate New York on Monday, and will come to the car show this week.
Because it's such an odd vehicle, the Transition has asked the government to exempt it from standard car and plane requirements. It can use special tires and glass that is lighter than the usual weight required of cars. It also doesn't have to have electronic stability control, which would add six pounds.
The challenge, as Wired put it, is that "one plus one does not usually equal two" when it comes to combining two complicated machines like plane and a car. The Transition isn't a great car. Nor is it a great plane. It can go 70 miles per hour on the road, and 115 in the air, the company told the Christian Science Monitor. Those who want to go long distances by plane should take a plane, and those who want to go to the grocery store or even the town over should take a car. Even Terrafugia's CEO understands this tension. "If you’re flying 1,000 nautical miles, you’re probably going to want a higher performance aircraft” he told Wired. “But if you’re flying 100, 200 or 300 miles, this might be ideal.”
It doesn't help that the Transition is far more than your standard car or light aircraft. In fact, you could buy both and still have money leftover. So selling it to the public will force Terrafugia to answer the big question: why? The answer might be simply: because it's cool.
And people are interested. The Christian Science Monitor reports that about 100 people have put down a 10,000 deposit to get one. Those who do decide to spring for the flying car will have to complete 20 hours of flying time before being allowed to launch their roadster into the air. They expect to get more pre-orders from the car show as well.