Flying car a 'step closer': Terrafugia (Update)

Apr 02, 2012 by Andrew Beatty
The prototype "Transisition" car plane. Massachusetts-based firm Terrafugia said their production prototype "Transition" car-plane had completed an eight-minute test flight, clearing the way for it to hit the market within a year.

Drivers hoping to slip the surly -- and traffic congested -- bonds of Earth moved a step closer to realizing their dream, as a US firm said it had successfully tested a street-legal plane.

Massachusetts-based firm Terrafugia said their production prototype "Transition" car-plane had completed an eight-minute test flight, clearing the way for it to hit the market within a year.

"With this flight, the team demonstrated an ability to accomplish what had been called an impossible dream," said founder Carl Dietrich.

The two-seater craft, which has the rounded features of a Fiat 500 and collapsible wings, is on presale for $279,000 and some 100 vehicles have already been ordered.

While many companies have successfully built a flying car, none have succeeded in producing more than a handful of models.

But things have changed since the clunky Curtiss Autoplane hopped and spluttered into action in the early 1900s.

New materials and computer-aided design mean today's flying cars are cheaper and lighter to build.

They also look more like "Blade Runner" than "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang."

The successful test flight has given hope to aficionados that this staple of science fiction is a step closer to reality.

"Is it going to be like the Jetsons with everyone driving one in five years? No," admitted Winfield Keller, vice president of The International Flying Car Association, a trade group.

"But we are getting to the point where 10, maybe 15 years from now that the people owning and operating (them) will be everyday people."

In the meantime manufacturers hope they can build something that appeals to border security agencies, the police or the military, as well as hobbyists.

Terrafugia is targeting pilots looking for a bit more flexibility and fewer hangar fees.

Spanning 90 inches (2.3m) the same as a car, it fits into a normal-sized garage, before unfurling a 26 foot (8m) wingspan.

The Transition, they say offers unparalleled freedom of movement, with a range of 490 miles (787 kilometers) and without the need to check bags.

But to take advantage, would-be owners will need to have both a driver's and pilot's license -- with a minimum of 20 hours of flying time.

The craft needs 2,500 feet (762 meters) of runway for takeoff, meaning pulling onto the shoulder and escaping the traffic is not really an option.

"The Transition Street-Legal Airplane is now a significant step closer to being a commercial reality," the company said.

At least two other companies are racing to bring an autoplane to the market.

Dutch company PAL-V has tested a prototype gyrocopter-style car. It hopes to now build a full production prototype and to have the first deliveries by 2014.

California-based Moller International has built a personal vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, although it requires a little more training to operate.

Explore further: Poll: Americans skeptical of commercial drones (Update)

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User comments : 24

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thomowen20
3.5 / 5 (8) Apr 02, 2012
"would-be owners will need to have both a driver's and pilot's license..."

and

"The craft needs 2,500 feet (762 meters) of runway for takeoff..."

and

"Spanning 90 inches (2.3m) as a car, it fits into a normal-sized garage, before unfurling a 26'6" (8m) wingspan."

AND....

"The two-seater craft costs around $279,000..."

Uh, yeah... this won't be the one.
TrinityComplex
5 / 5 (8) Apr 02, 2012
No, but as the article says, it's a step in the right direction. Honestly, until cars can drive themselves and the reliability of the parts can be increased significantly we will not see flying cars, VTOL or otherwise. As much damage as a car can do, imagine if that car was flying over houses or crowded areas. Unfortunately people are too irresponsible to be allowed to drive flying cars, which is why I include the requirement that the vehicles must be able to drive themselves. I would be terrified if an un-automated flying car DIDN'T require a pilot's license. Then again maybe people in general could use the paradigm shift of having to communicate their intentions to some kind of traffic control when driving. Might make them pay more attention and text themselves into a crash less often.
Deadbolt
1.5 / 5 (4) Apr 02, 2012
Why do we need flying cars?
SR71BlackBird
3.7 / 5 (6) Apr 02, 2012
We don't need flying cars... What we need is automated highway systems implemented with magnetic induction for "on-the-drive" charging of all electric cars. Basically a smart highway. This would clear highway congestion as well as reduce (significantly) the amount of roadway accidents.
Doug_Huffman
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 02, 2012
"Oh shoot, Mister, I just dropped my cellphone and when I looked up, well, I just couldn't stop in time. It's OK, though, my insurance is paid up and the company will take care of it. They always have."
winthrom
1 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2012
The MIT car price is too high, and the runway is always too short. A better alternative is in progress: see http://www.samson...rks.com/

BTW, we do not need flying cars if all we do is drive earthbound cars. If we are licensed pilots (I am VFR, single engine, land) then we can drive when the weather is IFR and fly when it is VFR. Means I do not have to have IFR license and can always get where I am going.
Toronto
not rated yet Apr 03, 2012
April fools was yesterday
Graeme
not rated yet Apr 03, 2012
It sounds like it will run out of fuel before it gets to the end of the runway.
Kinedryl
1 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2012
It's normal plane with four wheels and it should be handled so from legal point of view. Nevertheless, it could save some place near our tiny houses..
TrinityComplex
5 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2012
Kinedryl, it took a whole lot of work for them to make this thing street legal, that was the breakthrough. It's more of a 'driving plane' rather than a flying car. Meeting safety standards for both airways and roadways was a difficult task.

As to why we need flying cars: There's much more space in the air than on the ground. In the US state and federal governments are spending less and less on infrastructure, so the roads are falling apart and they can't increase the size proportional to the number of vehicles they now have to accomodate. Either more needs to be spent on infrastructure (of which roads are not the only part) or the roads need to be used less. Additionally, it would be nice to be able to take a trip in your own vehicle without being limited to 60 miles per hour. I'll agree that we don't need flying vehicles for around town transit, but my hour long commute could be cut significantly with a VTOL vehicle that doesn't have to follow the road.
krundoloss
1 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2012
All signs point to NOT having flying cars. There are so many reasons:
1. Its takes much more power (whatever the source might be) to make an object airborne than it does to make it roll.
2. That power can be released in a crash, which is much more devistating that a wheeled vehicle crash.
3. How reliable can they be made? A car breaks down and rolls to a stop. A flying vehicle that breaks down becomes a very dangerous object.
4. People cannot be trusted to fly them, and if they could fly themselves then why not just have them drive themselves at a much lower energy expense.

This is not to say that we cannot overcome these obstacles, with features such as Computer control, location aware artificial intelligence controlling the craft. A power source so abundant that the extra energy expense no longer matters would fix that, and finally some sort of virtual highway for the device to follow. Watch out for Birds!
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2012
I still like the idea of the Flynano. Maybe they could expand the idea for longer distances and vertical takeoffs/landings. See link:

http://www.flynan...dex.html

Arnold Schwarzenegger will probably be the first person to buy the flying car so he can drive around town showing off. Most people will not be able to afford a flying car. Plus, it will be just down right impractical for most people, but no all.

Just think of all of the mid-air collisions that will be caused by these things. Every time I see a futuristic movie with flying cars I always think about an accident and the vehicles falling on people and buildings below.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2012
All the sudden there is a another article about a different flying car. See link:
http://www.physor...car.html
TrinityComplex
5 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2012
Krundoloss: Yes, it typically does take more energy to make something airborn (barring lighter than air craft, like a zepplin), but energy efficiency while in the air might surprise you. Moller, which is trying to make a VTOL skycar, claims 28 miles per gallon, with great potential for improvement.

Also, redundancies and safeties could be put into place to ensure that a vehicle would not plummet out of the sky. Self-test systems would be essential, but plausible. As I said, as well, they need to fly/drive themselves (which Google is pushing along nicely) because people are irresponsible. It's certainly not going to happen tomorrow, but it is possible and may be a necessary advancement due to an increasing population.
bg1
not rated yet Apr 03, 2012
What about insurance?
NotAsleep
5 / 5 (1) Apr 04, 2012
Krundoloss, you've been grossly misinformed on the efficiency of flight. Depending on your location and distance travelled, a plane can be MUCH more efficient than a car (low altitude, avoid traffic, avoid winding roads).

If anyone thinks this is too expensive or impractical then it probably isn't going to be marketed to you. The owners of these will be relatively wealthy individuals whose time is worth quite a bit. It takes me 7 hours to drive from Salt Lake City to Lake Powell. If I had one of these, it would take much less time and I'd enjoy the trip more.

And to those of you with safety concerns... you should buy a helmet and pads, life is pretty dangerous
TrinityComplex
not rated yet Apr 04, 2012
bg1: I don't know if it's changed, but when I read about this a year ago they said a person would likely have to have automobile and airplane insurance (just like they have to have a driver's license and pilot's license), until the insurance companies catch up with the new market.
Vendicar_Decarian
5 / 5 (1) Apr 04, 2012
For the same reason we require nasal fire and rectum staples.

"Why do we need flying cars?" - Deadbolg
euroflycars
not rated yet Apr 06, 2012
We don't need flying cars, just personal ULM electric rotary-wing VERTOL aircraft for intercity travel (the most eligible to date being the tiltrotor concept), and mini-EV's for urban traffic.

While both could be seen as public transport modules if fully automated, this is yet state-of-the-art for aircraft only.

So, don't believe the Google/DARPA hoax of fully automated cars driving in dense urban traffic: both agencies are tied to gvt intertests and only want to drag your attention away from the long standing reality of fully automated flight, because they fear the perspective of the civil society taking possession of the global airspace with myriads of personal aircraft defeating their joker for global power enforcement, i.e. total control of the global airspace.

If automated flying transit modules could indeed get your kids to the urban perphery as safely as in their mummy's SUV, the kids would still need an EV-taxi driver to get from there to anywhwere within the urban aera.
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Apr 06, 2012
The European convertible gyro-copter design is vastly better.
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 07, 2012
The European convertible gyro-copter design is vastly better.

Assuming the cruising speeds are similar,I completely agree.The only "advantage" of fixed wing flying cars is they can be fitted with a BRS whole aircraft chute (see: http://www.youtub...cntPdRtk for a dramatic real life demo)The autogyro,however,might not be suitable for this safety feature,although hopefully I can be proved wrong.
Shootist
1 / 5 (1) Apr 07, 2012
Unfortunately people are too irresponsible to be allowed to drive flying cars,


And you are anointed by GOD to make these judgements?

I suppose civil aviation is right out, as well.
Parsec
5 / 5 (1) Apr 08, 2012
Cars need to be sturdy to be collision resistant, and optimized for many things planes do not need. Planes need to be very lightweight and very rigid. The design parameters are not optional, they are physically ordained. Any flying car will be at best a mediocre car, and a mediocre plane.
Newbeak
not rated yet Apr 08, 2012
Cars need to be sturdy to be collision resistant, and optimized for many things planes do not need. Planes need to be very lightweight and very rigid. The design parameters are not optional, they are physically ordained. Any flying car will be at best a mediocre car, and a mediocre plane.

Popular Mechanics has an article giving 7 reasons you won't see this flying car in your garage: http://www.popula...=pm_news

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