June 29, 2004

And Still No Flying Cars

Matthew Fox laments the future we were promised, but which so far hasn't arrived:

At midnight on January 1, 2000, my friends and I stepped out of our apartment to watch the fireworks being fired off on Mount Royal. Despite the millennium hype, the world looked the same—not just as it did on December 31, but as it had for decades. Where were the paperless offices? The robots to dust the piano? The clean-running flying cars? Movies, books and TV had long been drawing the futurescape for us, but it seemed all that promise had been derailed; innovation was too expensive, too extreme or merely impossible.

Read the whole thing.

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March 03, 2004

So, When Do I Get My Mr. Fusion?

In the early 90's the scientific community got burned over claims of "cold fusion." Now that it appears that another form of "fusion in a jar" may be possible, the Purdue University team responsible is being very careful.

Unfortunately it's premature to plan installing a Mr. Fusion on your flying DeLorean. Presently these scientists are not even talking about this technology being used as an energy source.
Before such a system could be used as a new energy source, however, researchers must reach beyond the "break-even" point, in which more energy is released from the reaction than the amount of energy it takes to drive the reaction.

"We are not yet at break-even," Taleyarkhan said. "That would be the ultimate. I don't know if it will ever happen, but we are hopeful that it will and don't see any clear reason why not. In the future we will attempt to scale up this system and see how far we can go."
Instead of energy production, these scientists forsee using neutron emissions in scanning technology – for security, medicine, or for nanotechnology.

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December 23, 2003

FuturePundit on Flying Cars

Randall may not use the term, but we know what he's talking about.

Actually, from the description, these things conjure up not so much an image of a car as an image of those cylindrical things that dick Tracy use to fly around in. Well, hey, one of those could come in pretty handy too.

A while back, I updated all the reasons why we don't yet have flying cars. One of the best thought-out answers can be found in our recent interview with John Smart, but I'm not giving you a link right to the spot. Go find it!

A tip of the sombrero to El J G, a man who (in his own words) "don't need no stinking hat tip."

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November 20, 2003

Flying Cars and Other Dreams

As regular readers know, here at the Speculist, we've been tracking the question of why we still don't have flying cars for some time. Now posse member Chris Hall directs us to an analysis of why we don't have

Flying Cars
Passenger Airships
Supersonic Commercial Aviation (another favorite topic)
Space Tourism
Space Colonies

This is essential reading. Don't miss it.

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September 07, 2003

Flying Car Update

Thanks to everyone who sent me information on the Moller aircar. Moller's machine is definitely a step in the right direction, but it still seems a generation or two away from being a true flying car. For now it will require pilot's license and takeoff and landing at an airport. And the advantage of purchasing one of these over an airplane is...?

Still, it's fun to watch the video of the test flights. I'm eager to see one where they don't have the thing attached to a crane. Based on this particular video, it looks like Christine Peterson raised a sound objection: noise.

Reader Larry J provides some historical information on Molt Taylor's aerocar, which was an earlier and quite different take on the idea of a flying car. The aerocar was more of a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang kind of idea — a car that the driver turned into an airplane by adding wings to it.

Note: Here are some reasons that various folks have given for why we don't yet have flying cars.

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September 05, 2003

Why No Flying Cars?

Glenn Reynolds is touting a floating car as a substitute for what he really wants, a flying car.

As regular Speculist readers know, I've been working tirelessly on the question of flying cars since I started this blog more than an entire month ago. I have had the opportunity to ask some of the most forward-thinking people on the planet why we don't have flying cars. The question is number seven of my Seven Questions About the Future:

Why is it that in the year 2003 I still don't have a flying car? When do you think I'll be able to get one?

Here are the answers I have received so far:

Aubrey de Grey
You don't have one because it's very hard to build something that fits the bill — fast, safe, affordable. "Safe" is probably the hardest. When will they become available: I suspect never, in fact, because quite soon we will know that the end of aging is on the way, and the consequences in terms of increased risk-aversion will be so great that there won't ever be a market for things that risky. In theory they might eventually be risky only for people on the ground, not for the occupants, but that's quite enough: back in 1999 I predicted that, once we cure aging, driving (even on the ground!) will be outlawed as too dangerous for others. Remember also that when we have so many more years ahead of us, we won't need to be in such a hurry all the time, so flying cars would only be for recreation anyway.

Alex Lightman
Because idiotic teenagers can get a plane and crash it into building. The hazards of bad driving outweigh the benefits. Flying generally requires tremenous thrust, which requires a big engine and big wings, or hovering, which involved huge stresses on bearings or the same thrust. In either case you end up with high capital and/or maintenance costs, with few marginal benefits that can't be substituted for. Want to see the view from your flying car? Buy the pictures books, or go on the web and see the satellite photos. Want to get to meeting in less time? Telecommute with broadband. And so on.

Christine Peterson
Deep down, I think the reason is noise issues. I think you could have a flying car, it would just be extremely noisy. So it's not practical.

Chris Eldridge
Point of Divergence: our society is becoming so complex that most of our resources have to go to its simple maintenance. This makes implementing even vastly superior ideas like Hydrogen power and flying cars very hard - nearing the point of impossibility. It is also a wrong notion to assume that everyone needs a Skycar. Sky taxicabs that can drop you off would prevent the sky from being full of reckless individuals.

And the best answer so far...

Robert Zubrin
Blame Nixon.

I also asked some AI Chatbots the same question:

You should try praying for it.

I don't know.

Ah type something interesting or shut up.

So there you have it. The research will continue.


We've had some more good answers in recent weeks:

Rand Simberg
Technology of the flight hardware aside, the biggest showstopper right now is probably traffic control. Think about how easy (too easy, in most cases) to get a driver's license right now, and then extend that to three dimensions. You might want a flying car, but do you really want everyone to have one? Until we get trustworthy automated flight controls, flying cars, to the degree that they exist, will remain playthings of the elites, and not practical for most people.

Hmmm….not really seeing the benefit in a flying car - if everyone else gets one, traffic will still be the same – just air bone. If only YOU have one, people will be trying to kill you to get it.

Mike Sargent
Humans are fallible, both as engineers and as operators, and most humans are aware of these faults, therefore many ideas that begin "wouldn’t it be nice if . . . " run headlong into the cynical (if accurate) "Yeah, right!" The proper solution to this derailing of dreams is twofold. First, keep dreaming the big dreams because technology rises to overcome human weakness and eventually (at least in most cases) the impossible becomes the difficult and the difficult trivial. Second, take the cynics’ inputs as constructive criticism (even when they aren’t offered that way) and use them to make the dream better, simpler, and even more fantastic. For the record, my ‘flying car’ dream is computer neural interface, the classic plug in the back of the skull. I don’t think that, given the current state of information security or human nature that it would be a good idea to ‘jack in’ right now, but it can be made safe, effective, and eventually cheap.

Michael Anissimov
Not until we have a suitable safety net, I hope. Burning hunks of metal falling from the sky doesn’t help much with life extension!

And my current favorite answer...

Nina Paley
Drive any car off a cliff; it’ll fly. So we have flying car technology. We just don’t have the technology to handle the sudden stop.

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