Flying Cars Are Closer to Reality Than You Think
There are just a few little bugs to sort out
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 can tell jokes, but our cars still drive on four wheels.
That may soon change. Really. The past decade has seen a flurry of innovations for what were once called “flying cars”; now they’re vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (VTOLS), electric VTOLS (eVTOLS), or air taxis. They’re built by scrappy startups and legacy aerospace firms. They’re coming out of Silicon Valley, Pittsburgh, Slovenia, and China. And no tech billionaire’s portfolio is complete without an investment in a vehicle that can drive in the sky.
If the most ambitious projections are accurate, somebody somewhere will be laughing at the suckers stuck in traffic below them within the next five years. But the most ambitious projections are rarely accurate. More likely, it’ll be decades before flying cars are anywhere close to common. And when they are, they won’t be what we’ve always imagined.