Anyone who's been hoping for flying cars may not have to wait for 'reality-bending' new physics, or for Harry Potter's world to be revealed to us muggles. According to the U.S. company Terrafugia Inc., they plan on producing a flying car that can be flown by anyone, and it should be ready as early as 2021.
The TF-X will be a small four-seater hybrid vehicle that will not only be legal to drive on streets and highways, but will also be able to take off and fly in the air. What will set this apart from other designs, including Terrafugia's current prototype, the Transition, is that the TF-X will not need a runway. In order to take off and land, it will only need about 30 metres of level ground.
[ More Geekquinox: Have we underestimated our impact on the world? ]
The way it will accomplish this is by using helicopter-like rotors that unfold from the sides of the vehicle, which will lift it off of the ground and allow it to set down gently. While in the air, though, a powerful turbine positioned behind the passenger compartment takes over, to propel the vehicle through the air at up to 315 km/h, and with a range of around 800 kilometres.
What's more, the company is saying that it will only take a driver about five hours to learn to fly the TF-X safely, and it will actually be safer to fly this car than it will be to drive on roads and highways. The reason for this is the TF-X will be equipped with a computer that will automatically avoid hazards such as other air traffic and bad weather, it will stay out of any restricted airspace or airport airspace in the area, and it can even handle landing the vehicle all by itself, with no user intervention. In fact, it will implement an auto-landing in any emergency situation, such as when the driver becomes unresponsive, and there is also a backup parachute system if the vehicle itself can't make a powered landing.
According to Terrafugia, take off and landing will only be in 'approved landing zones', but anyone who is a licensed operator can apply to have new zones approved. Thus, if you have the appropriate space near your house, you could have that added to the landing zone database.
The company projects that it will take between 8-12 years for them to being the TF-X to market, making it available starting sometime between 2021 and 2025.
[ More Geekquinox: Chris Hadfield transfers command of the ISS today ]
This is all pretty amazing stuff, although the company projects that the cost of owning a TF-X will be "on-par with very high-end luxury cars of today," which would likely put it somewhere between $100,000 and $350,000 (although Bill Howard, of ExtremeTech.com estimates between $500,000 and $1 million), which is a bit sad.
Still, part of the reason why it should be safer to drive these is that there will be fewer of them in the sky (as opposed to the millions of cars on the roads). Given that one of these crashing would cause far more damage than a car crash, and likely be fatal for anyone on board (and possible many others, depending on where the crash occurred), having only a few of them in the skies is probably a fairly good thing... at least to start.
(Images and video courtesy: Terrafugia Inc.)
Geek out with the latest in science and weather.
Follow @ygeekquinox on Twitter!