It all starts with a vision and that comes from imagination. The vision of flight is nothing new as we now have thousands of flights transporting millions of passengers daily. However, in spite of that there has always been the dream of getting into your car and taking off in flight.
This idea has continuously popped back into our imagination over the years from as far back as there have been cars. We have seen memorable examples over the years from George Jetson transporting his family in his flying car to the depiction of the flying car from Back to the Future. We have seen them in the Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, Total Recall, Reboot, Spaceballs, Batman Beyond, and Star Wars. So why have they not become reality?
In fact, they are not that difficult to manufacture. We already have the expertise. In trying to imagine the world of flying cars, the technology is probably the easiest part to predict. The hardest part is how to balance regulations, and all the potential dangers that could come with thousands of cars flying up above a city.
This is not stopping companies from moving forward though. The Hutch Report visited the Geneva Car Show this year to discover what this new economy is producing in the way of cars for the future.
In addition, to the regular new design launches of combustible engine cars, there was an obvious move towards all electric vehicles as well as self-driving vehicles. But surprise, surprise, this year saw the unveiling of two flying vehicles, one which is ready to be commercialized.
The Pal-V Liberty models on the market will be the limited Pioneer Edition. The Pioneer Edition marks the launch of the flying car era. Worldwide, only 90 vehicles of this edition will be sold. After the delivery of the Pioneer Edition models, PAL-V will start the delivery of the PAL-V Liberty Sports models. The PAL-V Liberty Pioneer Edition will be the very first certified commercial flying car ever delivered, a world premier.
It can currently be purchased for € 499.000.00 ($615,000.00). It will cost € 25,000.00 to reserve a PAL-V Liberty Pioneer Edition. The contract is transferable within the country of registration and you have to expect 9 months before scheduled delivery. There are 10 lessons near to your home or place of work and the fee is a non-refundable deposit. Anybody purchasing one of these flying cars will of course be required to get a pilot’s licence to fly one.
Italdesign and Airbus had their world premiered of the Pop.Up, the first modular, fully electric, zero emission concept vehicle system designed to relieve traffic congestion in crowded megacities. The Pop.Up is a modular system for multi-modal transportation that makes full use of both ground and airspace.
It is presented as a system concept consisting of three layers: an Artificial Intelligence platform that, based on its user knowledge, offers alternative usage scenarios; a vehicle shaped as a passenger capsule designed to be coupled with two different and independent electric propelled modules, the ground module and the air module. Other public means of transportation (e.g. trains or hyperloops) could also integrate the Pop.Up capsule; and an interface module that dialogues with users in a virtual environment.
It combines a small two seater ground vehicle with a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air vehicle, thus bridging the automotive and aerospace domains.
At the heart of the concept is a capsule: designed to accommodate passengers. The capsule transforms itself into a city car by simply coupling to the ground module, which features a carbon-fibre chassis and is battery powered. For long journeys with traffic congestion, the capsule disconnects from the ground module and is carried by a 5 by 4.4 metre air module propelled by eight counter-rotating rotors. In this configuration, it becomes a urban self-piloted air vehicle. Once passengers reach their destination, the air and ground modules with the capsule autonomously return to dedicated recharge stations to wait for their next customers.
The financing, ingenuity and expertise is now obviously available to produce these vehicles on a much larger scale. As far as demand goes, we don’t think that there will be any lack of interest as more than a few consumers would jump at the chance to escape the painful commute on a congested highway. How to manage the infrastructure is the biggest problem and that usually only becomes an issue once the problems begin to accumulate. As an example, we have a greater interest in electric cars. There are more and more of them arriving on the market yet we lack the infrastructure to charge these vehicles. We spoke with a Tesla owner at the car show that explained our he had to plan his trip from the Netherlands to Geneva very carefully in order to have the charge necessary to reach his destination. “I still have about 100km of charge left with which to find a charging station.”
We have millions of cars creating more and more traffic congestion. We have problems of substance abuse behind the wheel that causes potential harm to others. We still have manufacturing faults that find their way into the market, putting vehicle owners in potential danger. Of all the traffic fatalities in the past few years, “Ninety-four percent were the result of human driving error,” said Damon Porter, director of state government affairs at the Association of Global Automakers.
It is a nice dream to imagine being able to get into your car, take off above the crowds and get to your destination in comfort and style in no time at all, but reality may have other plans.