Here's what you can expect of driverless cars down the line
Flying cars could be the new normal. The Jetsons are coming for real.
By Alvin R. Cabral
Published: Fri 5 May 2017, 8:12 PM
Last updated: Fri 5 May 2017, 10:16 PM
In the words of Henry Ford: "Mark my words: a combination aeroplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come". Henry Ford - the founder of that American car company we know - made that prescient statement way back in 1940. The last line was telling, because probably everyone could have literally laughed him away at the time.
Too bad his "flying" Ford Flivver back in the Roaring Twenties met a not-so-pleasant fate, clanking in mid-air and crashing off Melbourne, Florida; the pilot's body was never recovered.
Who's laughing now? Just last week, news leaked that Google co-founder Sergey Brin was at it, trying to one-up his very good friend and partner Larry Page for the future of air transport. And while the latter's project - he's backing a firm called Kitty Hawk for this endeavour - has been very much in the news complete with an actual demo on April 24, the former had a no-comment answer to his plaything, which is widely said to be a huge freaking airship.
Uber, meanwhile, has its own flying taxi programme that it envisions will be in New York within five years. Dubai plans on welcoming it by 2020, in time for the Expo. And just when you thought 'Project Titan' was dead, Apple brought it back from the grave. It got permission to test its very own self-driver in California, and enlisted a Lexus SUV for its late foray into this race.
Not to be left behind, Samsung just got permission from Korean authorities to have a go at it - taking their bitter rivalry with 1 Infinite Loop on a whole new track.
Remember The Jetsons? Well, with all the brouhaha in this race, it's fun to think that we may be, one day, in their shoes, er, flying cars.
So, what's it like to be in a flying car? Probably like being on a plane or chopper, but in the shape of of our good ol' four-wheeled travelling buddy. You've heard and seen car companies racing each other for convenience, innovation and luxury in their offerings; imagine if this same thing happens with these flying contraptions. (Rolls-Royce 'Floating Ghost,' anyone?)
There are exciting possibilities if and when flying cars go commercial. I can just see myself laughing at everyone stuck in traffic while I hover above them. But then again - maybe in the farther future - we could even end up having traffic jams up there. That could give "no way" a whole new meaning. (Ever heard of the 'fundamental rule of traffic'? It basically states that as long as the use of roads is free, more cars will fill up what's available; understand jams now?)
But as with all new innovations, there are apprehensions. Aeroplanes, helicopters and even hot-air balloons have been around for so long that safety has been proven. There are fewer air-travel accidents than those on the road, in case you didn't know).
Now you want to ride something that's basically unproven? A new study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute shows that almost 63 per cent of those surveyed are 'very concerned' with the overall safety of flying cars. And just a shade under six per cent are 'not at all concerned'. Brave new order; suddenly, it just hit me after writing that last line that it could be a bit of a hassle having to keep in mind where the parachute, life jacket or eject button is when you're in a flying car (we could be in for some more of those sometimes-annoying safety videos onboard these, right?). And we haven't even touched the subject of self-driving flying cars until now... which we don't think we need to elaborate on further.
Elon Musk, Tesla boss and trafficus disruptus maximus, isn't buying it: he says flying cars are a bad idea. He doesn't see it as a "scaleable solution," plus you've got to watch your head, assuming all those well-paying flying-car owners are bad maintainers of their toys.
"If somebody doesn't maintain their flying car, it could drop a hubcap and guillotine you," he says. Yikes. And ouch. And speaking of paying, good luck if you want to own one for your personal kick: Pal-V Liberty, for example, is taking reservations for its Pioneer Edition, starting at $600,000 (Dh2.2 million). But don't worry, they'll soon have a Sport version, "cheaper" at $400,000 (Dh1.47 million).
Come to think of it, self-driving (regular) cars seem to have a hard time to find acceptance - heck, even electric cars are having a tough one. Flying cars can probably be split into two factions: the naysayers versus the bold.
For now, the lack of a very viable model and proposition plus an actual, safe one, is putting flying cars on a hazy route. Happens all the time when new stuff is being floated - and history might repeat itself with those of us today laughing akin to Ford's naysayers back in the day.
At least, in the present, we have better technology and actual (successful?) tests being flaunted. We all understand that innovation is a race. But we have to know when to step on the gas and when to slam on the brakes - or, more aptly, when to increase altitude and land safely.
Tech's made Alvin a full-time eccentric. He's obsessed with shoes and cooking