Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Inevitable Flying Car (USA Today)

You may have noticed a certain paleo-futurist quoted in yesterday's USA Today:
Matt Novak, however, remains unconvinced. The host of Paleofuture.com, a blog that looks at past predictions of the future, says flying cars look even further away these days.

"We had this sort of optimism in the '50s and '60s, a feeling that things were inevitable because of technology. And flying cars were on the short list," Novak says. "I don't think we're going to have freeways in the sky any time soon."

Read More:
What the future didn't bring
New Hampshire Public Radio (Jan, 2008)
Paleo-Future in the Wall Street Journal
Streamlined Cars of the Future


Miz K said...

Pretty swanky! The idea of flying cars terrifies me - look at what a mess the average highway is... and that's with a million signs and lines to tell people where to go - eep!

Mark R. Brown said...

We cannot have flying cars without three very important developments:

(1) An inexhaustible, inexpensive, renewable fuel supply.

(2) Near-infallible computer control systems.

(3) Cheap robot labor for material acquisition and flying car assembly.

El Mostro said...

I need one.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on your USAT quote!

If the nanny state is passing legislation making it a primary offense to text and drive, there's no way they're going to let us fly.

Anonymous said...

Of course, if you use present-day technology (wings, rotors, VTOL ducts, turbofans, all that mechanical paraphernalia), and multiply that by x-million vehicles per major metro area, you get... well... a REALLY energy-intensive gridlock generating a load of polluted turbulence at a constant 90-plus-dB. Then somebody screws up or gets a computer glitch, and falls onto the suburbs below (man, you ain't seen NIMBY). No, I think our dreamy future full of flying cars is our equivalent of an Arabian Nights world full of flying carpets. All we need is magic. Or at least antigravity.

Anonymous said...

Looking back on why so many of the ideas shown on this site haven't panned out, there are some common themes as others have addressed. The scarcity of energy, at least relative to what would've been required, is probably the primary thing that futurists of the past failed to foresee.

Back in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and even 1960s, many persons were still around who remembered what it was like to live without electricity at home and relying primarily on horse and buggy for most transportation. So, it was pretty easy to assume that the breakneck pace of technological change in those fields in the first half of the 20th century would continue or even accelerate. First, the oil crises of the 1970s and now the possibility of Peak Oil have given us a whole new perspective. And, the holy grail of inexhaustible energy, nuclear fusion, appears farther away than ever.

Many of these projects also would require massive public investments on massively disruptive infrastructure projects. The rise of environmentalism, NIMBYism, and fiscal conservatism from the 1960s to 1990s have made it much more difficult for such projects to go forward in most Western nations. I don't think these trends are altogether bad since we can see how some past projects have proven to be harmful or at least have mixed blessings upon the benefit of hindsight. Though, I think most of us here would agree we've gone too far in the other direction.

Anonymous said...

If not flying cars, can we at least all have hovercrafts? Please, scientists?

Anonymous said...

I respect you Matt, but I have to disagree. I think in about 50-100 years it will be possible. Michio Kaku for one already says by 2057 we will have cars that drive themselves. That makes accidents nearly impossible, and taking that to the skies, would be even better. We would be able to travel at very high speeds, and arrive at places where cars can't go. My prediction for the first flying car production is: October 1st, 2121 or sooner. I think we will see most cars being robotically controlled by 2030 or later. Back in the 50's and 60's we didn't have the technology we have today. So it can only get better. Back then, they could only predict based on technology we might have. Many of those technologies are already here or are a few years off.

Anonymous said...

I can't see flying cars entering the the consumer arena any time soon; given the way people drive (and treat) their cars, you'd need so many fail-safes in every area (fuel, propulsion, lift, navigation, control) that they'd be way beyond what most people can afford, and that's before you factor in the costs of maintenance, insurance and fuel.

Then there's the issue of pollution; exhaust, noise, and visual- do you want to stare up at a once blue sky, now smeared by the traffic of a crowded skyway?

Where I see them taking off (pun not intended) is in institutions with the infrastructure to afford them, maintain them, and train the pilots to the level required.

I see them as being used by the Government, Military, Emergency Services, and large corporations, but that would be it.

Anonymous said...

A real flying car, for just $194,000: