Buzz grows on 'flying cars' ahead of major tech show

January 4, 2019 by Glenn Chapman
Talk of flying cars will be growing at the Consumer Electronics Show with some designs to be on display such as this image from Cartivator backed by Toyota with the Japanese automaker looking launch a flying car in time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Will flying cars take off at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show?

Well, sort of.

The prototypes won't be soaring over the Las Vegas Strip during the technology extravaganza which runs from January 8-11.

But a number of flying car designs will be on display, portending what many see as an inevitable airborne future for short-range transport with vertical takeoff and landing, or VTOL.

NFT Inc. co-founders Maki and Guy Kaplinsky, a couple developing a flying vehicle in Israel and California, will have their vision on display at show, with a media session on Sunday.

"We believe we have a winning design that will enable us to make the Model T of flying cars—a low-cost production model," Guy Kaplinsky told AFP in a Silicon Valley office park where a prototype model was being assembled.

A doorway to the rear of the NFT office in Mountain View opened onto large blue tarps hung from the ceiling to hide the workshop.

A team of veteran aviation engineers is focused on research at the startup's facility in Israel, and the founders plan to expand the staff of 15 people.

The startup is designing hardware and software, while enlisting original equipment manufacturers to crank out products at scale.

"We learned from Tesla that Elon Musk spent too much time on the production side," Guy Kaplinsky said.

"We are spending our time on the technology side and will partner with companies on assembly."

The NFT vehicle with a projected price tag of $50,000 will function as a car, but be able to take off or land vertically and fly on auto-pilot.

NFT co-founder Guy Kaplinsky poses with a model propeller before a curtain concealing work the startup is doing on a flying car in the Silicon Valley city of Mountain View, with a presentation expected at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas
Regular Joes ?

Several companies, including Uber and start-ups backed by Google co-founder Larry Page, are working on people-carrying drones or similar flying vehicles.

In Japan, volunteers in a "Cartivator" group are out to build a "Skydrive" flying car and have set their sights on using one to light the flame at the opening of the Olympic games in Tokyo in 2020.

The crowdfunded effort has gotten backing from Japanese auto giant Toyota, where some Cartivator members work.

A scaled-down replica of "Toyota's flying car" is to be shown at CES.

"Our team consists of people with diverse professional backgrounds and is working hard every weekend towards developing the flying car," the group said at a cartivator.com website.

"We aim to build a prototype, establish theory of flight control, as well as form alliances with major corporations to make mass production of the flying car a reality."

Door-to-door solution

NFT is working to marry a plane with a car, meaning no airports or heliports would be needed.

"We believe door-to-door is the solution," Kaplinsky said.

"Our approach is more for the mom and three kids; you load everyone in the car one time and get where you need to go."

A smartphone mapping application could be paired to a navigation center hosted in the internet cloud, routing drivers to takeoff points and providing instructions to auto-pilots in cars.

A number of designs for flying cars have been unveiled including the "Pop.up next" by Audi, italdesign and Airbus seen at the Geneva International Motor Show on March 6, 2018

The electric powered NFT vehicle is targeting ranges of 310 miles flying (500 km) and 60 miles driving (100 km).

Kaplinsky said the startup seeing US Federal Aviation Administration approval as early as 2024.

He expected to have a drive-fly ready to demonstrate late next year.

Kaplinsky felt it likely that, in the long run, flying cars would be part of ride-sharing fleets to make better use than those owned by individuals.

Gartner automotive analyst Mike Ramsey says autonomous flying vehicles are coming, but won't disrupt the way people travel.

Ramsey said cost, regulation, and battery life are just a few of the hurdles for flying vehicles.

"There still has to be a limit to the number of these things that can be in the air at once," he said/

While one person with a flying car may be amazing, 500 people in a city darting about in flying cars could bode airborne mayhem.

"It's really cool, and it will have applications, but they are unlikely to be regular Joes like you and me jumping over all the traffic," Ramsey said.

The analyst said flying vehicles could catch on as lower cost options to medical helicopters, military transport, or accessing rugged rural areas.

"I do think the technology will happen," Ramsey said.

Explore further: When cars fly? Japan wants airborne vehicles to take off

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17 comments

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V4Vendicar
3.3 / 5 (3) Jan 04, 2019
Dunderheads.
carbon_unit
5 / 5 (4) Jan 04, 2019
/me makes note to self that next house should have a greatly reinforced roof.
baudrunner
5 / 5 (1) Jan 04, 2019
Flying cars will work, provided...

Think computerized air traffic control.

People shouldn't be flying these cars. Personally owned flying cars should be completely autonomous - punch in or tell it your destination and it takes you there. There should be standardization concerning collision avoidance - altitude changes according to direction of flight, for example.

Because they will get you where you need to go very quickly, there will be virtually no traffic congestion. Think about it.

The world needs flying cars.

Scolar_Visari
5 / 5 (1) Jan 04, 2019
Air traffic congestion is already a thing right now.

To be blunt, the world, "needs" flying cars just as much as it, "needs" amphibious cars: Not at all. Even if you resolve issues regarding fuel economy and affordability that allow them to replace automobiles at a 1:1 ratio, you'd still be left with the same environmental and urban sprawl issues automobiles enabled in the first place.

However, as this article mentioned, no one outside The Jetsons is actually forecasting anything remotely close to 1:1 replacement. They're meant to fill a cost niche that places them well outside the vast majority of incomes but below the price (and, perhaps, productivity) of conventional fixed and rotary wing aircraft.
Dug
5 / 5 (1) Jan 04, 2019
Wow! $50K and cheaper than the avg. Tesla M3 - and it flies.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Jan 05, 2019
The electric powered NFT vehicle is targeting ranges of 310 miles flying (500 km) and 60 miles driving (100 km).


Hours of flying is a better range estimator than miles, because hovering takes a ton of energy. If you can't immediately zip to top speed and go straight where you need to go, your range will vary by a huge margin.

For the road, miles is a better estimator because a car doesn't need energy to stand at stop lights.
HeloMenelo
not rated yet Jan 05, 2019
Flying cars will work, provided...

Think computerized air traffic control.

People shouldn't be flying these cars. Personally owned flying cars should be completely autonomous - punch in or tell it your destination and it takes you there. There should be standardization concerning collision avoidance - altitude changes according to direction of flight, for example.

Because they will get you where you need to go very quickly, there will be virtually no traffic congestion. Think about it.

The world needs flying cars.


No fully autonomous will never work, look at aviation today, autonomous aircraft have been around for a very long time BUT something always goes wrong every now and then, at some point there will be a glitch, then a pilot will Have to take the controls, so autonomous yes for the most part, but a pilot needs to go along for every ride to take manual control not for if, but for When the vehicle goes astray, and that will happen guaranteed.
HeloMenelo
not rated yet Jan 05, 2019
If it was not the case then aircraft today would have already not need pilots to fly, but after decades of perfecting the autonomous system, they still do need pilots and they always will, no one will ever fly anything without 1 being a pilot that can take over manually or 2 have a pilot on board to take over when the need arise.
HeloMenelo
not rated yet Jan 05, 2019
However i do agree that the world needs these cars, in fact, it was needed 10 years ago already.
Degauss
not rated yet Jan 05, 2019
These aircraft will be little more than a short term enthusiast item, as the ever busier airspace can be shut down for 'possible drone sightings' as happened recently at Gatwick, amidst ever hardening air security.
Although not directly related - I can't imagine any school, anywhere in the world allowing driverless cars traversing among kids, who are neither rational or safety conscious.
Take that up a notch to overhead, battery powered autonomous aircraft - the public reaction would be outrage, considering how aggressively people oppose clean energy wind turbines near their homes.
Da Schneib
1 / 5 (1) Jan 05, 2019
Meh. Another 20 years. Just like Tokamak fusion.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jan 07, 2019
"We learned from Tesla that Elon Musk spent too much time on the production side," Guy Kaplinsky said.

"We are spending our time on the technology side and will partner with companies on assembly."

The reason why Musk spent so much time on the production side is that he now manufactures all the crucial stuff in-house. Which means he can beat out all competitors who don't do this on price (since they have to pay the profit margin of suppliers)

As for autonomy: In the air full autonomy is a trivial exercise.
- No adverse "road conditions" (from construction sites to fallen branches after a storm or a few centimeters of snow).
- All other traffic is known since these vehicles will certainly be tagged by air traffic control
- Planning avoidance action in 3D is a lot easier than in 2D
- Landing and takeoff is trivial with drone design (compared to old-style planes)

The elephant in the room for flying drone-cars, of course, is noise.
Eikka
not rated yet Jan 07, 2019
Which means he can beat out all competitors who don't do this on price


He can, but he hasn't. The problem is the learning curve, where the design needs to be iterated over and over to optimize production - otherwise it's cheaper to buy from someone who has already filed all the rough corners off.

The Model 3 is quite terrible in terms of manufacturability. Bloomberg did a review on the tech and found the cars consisting of many more parts and assemblies than necessary, with things like wheel wells welded together from 8-9 different parts where other manufacturers would just do one stamping. There's different types of fasteners used for no reason, etc. making it a horribly time consuming and complicated thing to make.

It's like they took the hand-made prototype and just rushed it to production, and now that it's in production it isn't easy to change the plan while keeping the lines rolling.
Eikka
not rated yet Jan 07, 2019
- No adverse "road conditions"


But bad weather turns increasingly bad when you're 1000m up in the air. What's the equivalent of hydroplaning in a quadcopter? Getting flipped upside down by turbulence?

All other traffic is known since these vehicles will certainly be tagged by air traffic control


Except when they aren't. Also, birdstrikes.

Planning avoidance action in 3D is a lot easier than in 2D


But harder to pull off at speed, while being buffeted by winds. A large quadcopter flies laterally like a hovercraft, because most of its thrust is pointing down - it doesn't turn or stop on a dime, at least without also dropping like a brick.

The elephant in the room for flying drone-cars, of course, is noise.


And the dust and debris they kick off when they throttle up near the ground.
carbon_unit
not rated yet Jan 07, 2019
Noise, dust and debris aside, I think that having the night sky turn into a highway will really suck too.

I agree that autonomous operation in the air should be a significantly simpler task; not having to simulate a human watching the road and all. I'm not sure I'd go as far as 'trivial'. Still have to manage take offs and landing without running into subtle things like tree branches and power lines. Birds too!

I really think a huge problem will be crashes creating death and destruction on the ground. Car crashes generally don't involve things away from the street and have limited energy when they do. Now everything will be at risk from overhead when bad things happen, and will be pretty defenseless.

Yeah, I'd love to have ME a flying car, but it really doesn't scale well to lots of people having them.
granville583762
5 / 5 (3) Jan 08, 2019
When everyone has a flying car there will be mid air collisions
They will be like drones only every where
This why aeroplanes have flight paths
And there are no garages in the sky
When your battery goes flat
As
Your car goes flat
As a pancake
Flat on the ground
granville583762
5 / 5 (3) Jan 11, 2019
Even with the air collisions it would be nice to have flying cars

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