Thread: The Flying Car
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Old November 6 2012, 03:17 AM   #1
Trekker4747's Avatar
Location: Kansas City
The Flying Car

For many, the flying car is something of the "Holy Grail" of future technology. We could colonize the moon, Mars and move on to other stars but it won't feel like "the future" unless we've got a flying car out in the driveway.

The flying car has been a staple of movies and other works of fiction set in the future and the idea of it has always been placed just out of reach but within a lifetime. Most people presently in their mid 30s probably best think of "Back to the Future" when it comes to the future and the flying car.

Mostly when we see flying cars in fiction it's simply a car-looking vehicle that's able to defy gravity without the need for flight and control surfaces (wings, flaps, ailerons, rudder.) It's simply a car that functions in 3 dimensions as well as it does in two. This past summer's "Total Recall" presented us with "flying cars" that were simply "Mag-Lev" vehicles that operated along specialized roadways and were otherwise useless when not on the magnetic roadway.

Back to the Future presented it in an interesting way as opposed to how the flying car was used in the past as a symbol of the future. In moves from the 50s, 60s and in promotional videos the flying car was presented as a solution to traffic congestion and problems, after-all it's the sky and there's a lot of it! So no more traffic, right?

In Back to the Future 2 we're presented with a vastly more realistic idea that with flying cars there'll still traffic problems. We see a "traffic report" before Doc and Marty leave for the suburbs talking about a jammed skyway making Doc groan that it'll take "forever to get out there." Which that's what it'd be. They wouldn't let you just fly wherever you want it'll still be controlled and restricted to avoid crashes and other potential problems.

As we've seen technology grow most have probably groan more indifferent to the idea of the flying car, considering most people can barely handle two-dimensions without crashing into things while dicking with their iPod what's going to happen when you put them hundreds of feet in the air?

Real-world "flying cars" have been less that and more like roadable airplanes. No "fuck this traffic!", flip a switch and take to the skies and more "I've got to be in a different city in the region so I better drive to the airport and get clearance for take-off."

But, setting everything aside the flying car is a symbol that says "this is the future." So let's say we have them for the purposes of this discussion. We'll argue that the flying car is now available, it's no more expensive that cars presently are (no matter the make or model) or a conversion process for a car isn't prohibitively expensive, no more expensive than, say, buying a new set of average tires.

For that you get a "flying car", there's a catch, however. The car isn't capable of flying more than a few dozen feet off the ground, say no more than 50 or 60 feet. So the only "advantage" they may have is being able to pass someone by flying overhead of them. Essentially traffic laws in the third dimension are about the same as they are on a three-lane highway. Traffic closest to the ground is for "slow" and entering/exiting traffic, mid-flight level for "cruising" and the highest level for "passing." Though this exists "everywhere" so it's theoretically possible to make a VTOL landing into a parking spot from the "vertical fast lane." (Though the practice is frowned upon. Landing from 60 feet in the air is a dick move and likely to get your car keyed. )

The car has a minor AI preventing you from being able to drive off the roadway and to prevent possibly "overhead passing" into someone. Signals on the car can be used to signal 3rd-dimensional lane changes, mirrors and possibly even an on board CCTV preventing an "overhead blind spot." The car is maneuverable in the classic "flying car" style. No need to get to a "take off speed" or anything like that. The car simply ignores gravity. Stabilization systems prevent the car from being blown off course in high wind, etc. At least not any more greatly than an ordinary car.

The flight system is no more energy intensive than an ordinary car's engine drive-train.

My question is one of: What's the advantage of a flying car?

Would being able to pass cars or flying "over" traffic really be an advantage and make driving between places easier? Would the loss of the rolling friction between a car's wheels and the road make cars any more fuel efficient? Would traffic jams be a "thing of the past" or would we still have more of the problems?

(Again, for the "sake of argument" we'll assume all of the "problems" with flying cars aren't the case due to how they work and are operated. There's no higher risk of accident or calamity than there is with a normal car. Accidents still happen, yes; people still get distracted and the occasional vertical-merge crash does happen but overall accidents, mortality and injury rates and risks are the same as with roaded cars.)
For me, and for many of us, the future is now in the past.
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