Flying Cars Are Closer to Reality Than You Think

There are just a few little bugs to sort out

Adam K. Raymond


Credit: Michael H/Getty Images

The future — our present — is not what we were promised.

Man has not been to Mars (Wired, 1997), food has not become obsolete (Ray Kurzweil, 2005), and robots have failed to make the entire country’s population independently wealthy (Time Magazine, 1966). The human foot has not morphed into one giant toe (Dr. Richard Lucas, 1911), dental transplants have not become common (Mechanix Illustrated, 1947), and no one has “a live-in ape to do the cleaning and gardening chores” (RAND Corporation, 1967).

We also don’t have flying cars (Popular Science, 1924; The Saturday Evening Post, 1942; Back to the Future, 1985; etc.). For a century, visionaries, futurists, and wild-eyed sci-fi writers predicted airborne sedans parked in the garage of every suburban commuter. But nearly two decades into the 21st century, that dream has not been realized, even as so many other markers of “the future” — video chats, robotic house cleaners, the Cubs winning the World Series — have become reality.

Over time, people began to ask “Where’s my flying car?” as shorthand for disappointment with reality failing to meet the most exciting projections of the future. Sure, we’ve got tiny supercomputers in our pockets and countertop speakers that…