Monday, June 15, 2015

You are never going to get your flying car

I have bad news for you. You obviously don’t have the flying car you thought the future would bring, and you are never going to get one. The reason is that if we ever develop the technology needed to build a flying car, that would make it unnecessary.

Flying cars would only be possible if we developed truly perfect self-driving/flying automatons. Otherwise, it would be way too difficult, time consuming and dangerous. For comparison, a commercial rotorcraft license requires over 100 hours of practice, and things would be even more difficult if there weren't so few helicopters in the air at any given time. It would be dramatically more difficult if there were millions of other flying cars crowding the sky.

Most importantly, letting people fly cars would be insanely dangerous. In 2013 there were 5,687,000 automobile crashes in the United States, and of those, 1,591,000 resulted in injury and 30,057 were fatal. While that is still way too many deaths, most serious car crashes result in only broken bones. On the other hand, imagine the most common outcome of two flying cars crashing into each other at high speeds. They would instantly become metal death traps raining destruction on anything and everyone below. Travel deaths would skyrocket without perfect self-steering technology.

Yet if we have perfect self-steering technology, terrestrial cars would improve so much that flying cars wouldn't be worth it. With such technology we could outlaw human drivers, solve most traffic problems and allow cars to swiftly drive on the highways at speeds over 110 mph. By comparison, a Robinson R66 helicopter's cruising speed is 144 mph. For most traveling, the time saved from having a flying car instead of a perfect self-driving car would be minimal and not worth the numerous downsides.

Furthermore, it is a simple fact of physics that vertically lifting something up into the air will always take way more energy than rolling it along the ground. Flying cars, like helicopters currently, would be way less fuel efficient. They would also require strong engines with more complex systems (and thus would cost more), need more frequent maintenance since the consequences of malfunction in the air are far more significant, and also probably be more expensive to insure.

Barring the development of some new gravity-controlling technology, most people will never own a flying car. A few rich people might, but they basically already do since they have helicopters.

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