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Old November 6 2012, 03:17 AM   #1
Ugly Sweater
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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.)
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Old November 6 2012, 03:20 AM   #2
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Re: The Flying Car

I would think that there'd be one advantage: no weather problems. Snow and ice covered roads would become irrelevant!
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Old November 6 2012, 04:39 AM   #3
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Re: The Flying Car

I imagine with car AIs communicating with each other and automating most of the process, you could squeeze in 4 additional vertical lanes over the ground one within the 20 meter altitude range. That would effectively square the number of potential traffic participants on a freeway, and improve city traffic by an even wider margin. So yeah, it would solve congestion for generations to come. Parking space would be problematic within existing cities though. The only option I can predict is cars dislodging passengers, then pulling their noses up until they're perpendicular to the ground, and stacking themselves in parking spots like sardines. The entire city street could become a parking zone, making non-flying wheeled cars a thing of the past.
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Old November 6 2012, 05:06 AM   #4
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Re: The Flying Car

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
I would think that there'd be one advantage: no weather problems. Snow and ice covered roads would become irrelevant!
What about high winds?
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Old November 6 2012, 05:09 AM   #5
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Re: The Flying Car

^ Okay, *fewer* weather problems.
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Old November 6 2012, 05:11 AM   #6
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Re: The Flying Car

Mr. Laser Beam wrote: View Post
^ Okay, *fewer* weather problems.
More.
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Old November 6 2012, 05:24 AM   #7
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Re: The Flying Car

The basic concept offered to work off of is cars that defy gravity and can fly slowly in close formation, or even come to a full stop while in the air. Seeing as how airplanes don't function that way, some of the problems they run into are not gonna figure in.
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Old November 6 2012, 06:48 AM   #8
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Re: The Flying Car

I've thought a little bit along the same kind of concept, and I think it would actually be better for the environment, with a few changes. Designate interstates as "fly-only" zones, and get rid of all the asphalt and concrete. It would be one huge grassy strip, where animals would be free to cross without getting hit by cars, plus other advantages like less heat buildup in the area and cleaner air. Along those same lines, I suppose existing rivers could become highways as well.
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Old November 6 2012, 07:07 AM   #9
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Re: The Flying Car



Snoogans.
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Old November 6 2012, 07:16 AM   #10
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Re: The Flying Car

The problem isn't so much gravity as inertia. Hovercraft work great but can't be operated on roadways because there's a lack of positive control (they drift all over the place and can't stop, start, or maneuver quickly).

A flying car has to overcome that problem before it becomes viable as a vehicle that can operate in congested areas or anywhere near neighborhoods, and unlike conventional ground vehicles, no amount of parked cars, curbs, berms, trees, and a stone foundation will keep an out-of-control flying car from crashing into your bedroom at 60 mph, and crashes will happen due to unforeseeable circumstances (falling trees, unsecured loads flying back off a truck, teens tossing things out a window, etc).

You could possibly overcome these problems by having the car latch itself to a magnetic track, which could be stacked into almost any configuration (like a giant fence you'd see around a horse farm). That would give you a car that could operate normally or stick itself to the wall and be supported from the side, a simple variation on the idea of a car that followed tracks in the roadway.

As they say, at speed your car only contacts the road with four patches of rubber about the size of your tongue. If you want to eliminate the roadway, all you really need is to focus on is controlling what those four patches touch, or their equivalent.
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Old November 6 2012, 06:23 PM   #11
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Re: The Flying Car

O'Dib wrote: View Post
The basic concept offered to work off of is cars that defy gravity and can fly slowly in close formation, or even come to a full stop while in the air. Seeing as how airplanes don't function that way, some of the problems they run into are not gonna figure in.
Exactly the "concept" I was going for. That these are the "classic flying car" idea, simply to see what the advantages of them would be in an ideal situation. As said in the OP the car is nor more affected by wind and weather than a car on the ground, a high gust of wind causes the car to shudder some but not much else. In some cases a really high gust of wind and a distracted/poor driver may cause a car to blow into a "median"/'shoulder" and crash. But overall these incidences are no more greater than they are now.

The thought experiment was in a "all things being perfect" type thing to avoid discussions like cars being blown around in the wind. Which also goes to what gturner above says. Naturally a real flying car, barring any radical change or discoveries in science, are going to have a LOT of problems to overcome. That's not what we're discussing here.

We're discussing what the advantages of a flying car would be and to do that we're going to assume that the way the flying cars work and are operated causes no higher incidences of accidents, fatalities, and such as ordinary roaded cars. The cars are also just as maneuverable in three dimensions as cars are in two. They can stop in place, after a "breaking distance" due to inertia and hover in one spot.

Essentially the "Back to the Future" version of the flying car. (Ignoring how disturbed by the wind the DeLorean was in 1955) only it's altitude is limited to a few dozen feet off the ground rather than hundreds. Either due to technological limitations or law. It doesn't matter. People aren't flying them at 1,000 feet and crashing them into buildings anymore than people drive their cars across fields and crash into buildings. Maybe it does happen, maybe it doesn't. It's not enough to overcome the "advantages" the cars offer.

It's just a matter of what the advantages of a flying car are. Or if we'd simply still have the same problems. Would traffic jams really be lessened? Would they be more fuel efficient due to not having to overcome friction with the ground? Would less ground space need to be dedicated to streets and parking structures? (Since you could theoretically have a tall standing parking garage, or even an underground one, without the need for ramps to get between levels.) -For this we'll say the car can "descend" as low as possible to get to the ground. A minor "break" in the altitude limit, you could th erotically fly safely across the Grand Canyon, or descend into it, and ascend out of it since there's "ground" at the top of the canyon.
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Old November 6 2012, 06:31 PM   #12
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Re: The Flying Car

Circus Peanut wrote: View Post
O'Dib wrote: View Post
The basic concept offered to work off of is cars that defy gravity and can fly slowly in close formation, or even come to a full stop while in the air. Seeing as how airplanes don't function that way, some of the problems they run into are not gonna figure in.
Exactly the "concept" I was going for. That these are the "classic flying car" idea, simply to see what the advantages of them would be in an ideal situation. As said in the OP the car is nor more affected by wind and weather than a car on the ground, a high gust of wind causes the car to shudder some but not much else. In some cases a really high gust of wind and a distracted/poor driver may cause a car to blow into a "median"/'shoulder" and crash. But overall these incidences are no more greater than they are now.

The thought experiment was in a "all things being perfect" type thing to avoid discussions like cars being blown around in the wind. Which also goes to what gturner above says. Naturally a real flying car, barring any radical change or discoveries in science, are going to have a LOT of problems to overcome. That's not what we're discussing here.

We're discussing what the advantages of a flying car would be and to do that we're going to assume that the way the flying cars work and are operated causes no higher incidences of accidents, fatalities, and such as ordinary roaded cars. The cars are also just as maneuverable in three dimensions as cars are in two. They can stop in place, after a "breaking distance" due to inertia and hover in one spot.

Essentially the "Back to the Future" version of the flying car. (Ignoring how disturbed by the wind the DeLorean was in 1955) only it's altitude is limited to a few dozen feet off the ground rather than hundreds. Either due to technological limitations or law. It doesn't matter. People aren't flying them at 1,000 feet and crashing them into buildings anymore than people drive their cars across fields and crash into buildings. Maybe it does happen, maybe it doesn't. It's not enough to overcome the "advantages" the cars offer.

It's just a matter of what the advantages of a flying car are. Or if we'd simply still have the same problems. Would traffic jams really be lessened? Would they be more fuel efficient due to not having to overcome friction with the ground? Would less ground space need to be dedicated to streets and parking structures? (Since you could theoretically have a tall standing parking garage, or even an underground one, without the need for ramps to get between levels.) -For this we'll say the car can "descend" as low as possible to get to the ground. A minor "break" in the altitude limit, you could th erotically fly safely across the Grand Canyon, or descend into it, and ascend out of it since there's "ground" at the top of the canyon.
Then what is there to even talk about? You've described a magical type of vehicle that could never actually exist, at least not with any technology conceivable to us now. While you're at it, why not talk about the advantages of a trash-powered Mr. Fusion, as well? This stuff is completely fantastical, so what can you say about it other than "this would be cool if it was possible"?
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Old November 6 2012, 07:32 PM   #13
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Re: The Flying Car

The notion that something flying would care less about the weather than something driving is a bit too ridiculous for me to get past.
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Old November 6 2012, 10:08 PM   #14
gturner
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Re: The Flying Car

Well, how about something really simple, like building bridges and overpasses with PVC pipes running through them (the pipe goes in along with the pre-stressed steel mesh before the concrete section is poured). Then the pipes lead to pumps, and those lead to loops of pipe buried in trenches at each end of the structure. Insulating foam is attached to the bottom of the bridge, the pipes are filled with anti-freeze, and when the weather turns cold and snowy, the pumps circulate subsoil temperature anti-freeze through the bridge to keep it from icing over, a simple application of geothermal heating.

You could also do this with many major roads, eliminating or greatly reducing the need for snow plows and salt trucks, and also eliminating that very dangerous period when the roads have iced but the salt trucks or plows haven't come around yet.
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Old November 6 2012, 10:32 PM   #15
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Re: The Flying Car

Ghostavo Fring wrote: View Post
Then what is there to even talk about? You've described a magical type of vehicle that could never actually exist, at least not with any technology conceivable to us now. While you're at it, why not talk about the advantages of a trash-powered Mr. Fusion, as well? This stuff is completely fantastical, so what can you say about it other than "this would be cool if it was possible"?
It's a question on what the advantages of a flying car would be over a ground-based one. But to avoid all of the talk about wind blowing them off course, people changing radio stations and crashing into buildings, etc. I wanted to present the idea that the flying car presents no more greater danger, difficulty or problems than ground based ones.

In the real world of course a flying car would have numerous problems not make them worth it. They would be more vulnerable to gusts of wind blowing them off course, they'd have to obey the laws of physics and gravity and be little more than small aircraft. That's not the question here.

What are the advantages of a flying car if we assume they can be operated like roaded cars and present no greater danger or risk of accident.
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