Hacker News new | more | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Boeing’s Flying Car Has Taken Off (bloomberg.com)
107 points by pseudolus 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 202 comments



Perhaps it's just me, but I'd rather have the city of the future resemble Copenhagen or Amsterdam than the Fifth Element urban hell. Congestion in cities like LA or Dubai are a symptom of poor urban design and national transport policies. Flying cars feel closer to a dystopian band-aid than a solution to the root cause. Also, it's ugly.


Completely agree. Also, in a way the future is already here, just take a look at Tokyo, the most populated metro area in the world with 38M people and the most advanced transportation systems in the world.

The US should be trying to copy Japan and make an effort to benefit everyone, instead of creating expensive transportation alternatives that only very few will be able to take advantage of and won't solve any real problems except for those people. (I know, US <> Boeing)


But calling Tokyo just a "city" would be somewhat misleading. It functions quite like a mini state, with each of its wards being largely self contained and independent


At the same time you'd never know that just by being in Tokyo for a while. Take public transportation: lines might change color and operator, but you use the same trains and cards to go from ward to ward, and coverage is pretty homogenous from one end to the other. That alone makes it feel like one cohesive city.

Compare it to Lisbon (where I live): some five or six different systems to serve less than 2 million people. Disheveled, impossible to coordinate. Dense coverage in the city centre and sparse where people actually live, so masses of cars go into the centre every day. Gridlock and pollution everywhere. And the systems we have are considered good!

I'll gladly join the chorus calling Tokyo the future. Can't come soon enough.


But calling Tokyo just a "city" would be somewhat misleading. It functions quite like a mini state, with each of its wards being largely self contained and independent

A classmate of mine who visited Amsterdam in the 80's described his experience like this: People seemed to hang out in different neighborhoods based on what "type" they appeared to be. The police might spot you being "out of place" and guide you back to where you were "supposed" to be. Essentially, they would do a friendly "deportation" of you to the right neighborhood.

I think all cities have something like this going on, to one extent or another: subdivision into different sub-cities.


maybe the future will be Diamond Age phyles..


It makes no sense to copy the transportation systems of a 38m person city, when you're Boise, San Diego, Pittsburgh, Miami, etc. Other major cities like Dallas do not have the density to copy Tokyo such that it makes sense as a model and would be efficient.

The only thing the US should copy Japan on is long distance high-speed rail. The rest can be taken care of by electric buses + a lot of dedicated bus lanes, modest light rail investment and NY fixing its subway. The US doesn't actually need a radical makeover. A large expansion of dedicated bus lanes would fix 3/4 of the problem in nearly all US cities and would be very cost effective. Autonomous electric buses can provide a high volume solution that matches with the modest population size of most US cities.

Within 15-20 years the US is going to reach zero population growth (and the growth rate will be close to zero for much of that time). Shortly thereafter the US population will begin falling permanently. It doesn't need to explode its budgets building unnecessary transportation systems based on copying one of the world's most dense cities for absolutely no good reason.


Sorry but this is not feasible in the US.

Previously on HN https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16602151

We can't get our mayor de Blasio to commit to prevent people from stopping on the bus lane in the city (NYC). For example, in Jamaica, I would guess there is a bus every two minutes each way (peak) at Sutphin Blvd Hillside Avenue intersection. It isn't a particularly busy intersection, just an example.

Not just that there are cars parked in the bus lane, there are trucks unloading goods for the shops there, double parked.

The state of NJ says it is unlawful to idle your car for over three minutes. I've never seen anyone follow this rule. We might as well get rid of laws without enforcement. Who are we kidding?

Making a bus lane without enforcement is just wasting money to paint a lane. How do we enforce it? The only way I see viable is to allow bus drivers to write tickets to anyone blocking them (even for thirty seconds) in a bus lane (buses should definitely be equipped with multiple dash cams) and give the bus drivers the ticket money.


San Francisco Uber drivers are deathly afraid of cameras mounted on buses that issue tickets for being in bus exclusive zones. That works quite well.


Downtown Seattle has bus lanes that are well enforced. It's feasible in the US.


Assuming zero immigration?


Immigration isn't a constant force of nature. It will never go to net zero, but who's to say that as opportunities improve elsewhere and fertility drops, immigration might not drop to replacement level?


To your point: They say a rich country isn't one where the poor drive cars, but where the rich ride buses.


Who's "they"? I'm having a hard time imagining people other than the most die hard public transit proponents or government employees of countries where few can afford cars saying that. Owning your own means of transit is something the wealthy literally everywhere do (though the minimum amount of wealth to do that is higher in e.g. Singapore than in Canada), if you're super wealthy you don't even drive it yourself.

I'm not criticizing public transit here (I'm a big believer in light rail) but your quote sounds like something out of left field.

Edit: Turns out I was sort of close, a politician in Colombia said it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustavo_Petro


I think the point is that in a genuinely rich country (as opposed to a country where 0.3% are rich and 99.7% are fooled into thinking they could be if they just worked harder) the state income from taxes are sufficient to properly fund public infrastructure such as buses to the point where taking the bus is something you find yourself doing equally often as driving no matter what your income is.


Well yes, that's exactly what teachrdan's grandparent quote says, but in a few more words.


> Who's "they"?

Why are you asking "who?" Literally the first google result: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/879556-a-developed-country-...

> I'm having a hard time imagining people ... saying that

And that's a problem. A failure of imagination and/or policy.


In New York the head of my department was making $10 million a year and took the Metro North railroad to Grand Central and walked to the office every day.


personally, i interpreted that quote as being mostly about security. a rich person being able to ride the bus - or letting his/her kids ride the bus - without having to worry about being kidnapped for ransom by the destitute.

and you do have high profile politicians or celebrities in european cities (i only know examples from europe though) using public transport or riding bikes to get around.


Copenhagen and Amsterdam have a population of 602K and 822K respectively. Los Angeles is over 4 million people, and that's just the city not the greater metropolitan area, which is 14+ million.

Thinking that the model of medium-sized, developed European cities is going to work worldwide, when populations are only getting more concentrated and urban, is pretty naive.


Funny that you raise that very valid point. Maybe we should be asking our selves why there's such a large concentration of the population on these overloaded cities, when the US has arguably enough land to distribute more effectively...Denmark overall has a larger population density as a country than the US.


Sure, there's wide open tracts in North Dakota if that's your thing.


London and Paris are very large cities as well.

Both have excellent public transport.


London has actually much more people than LA. 8.8M instead than less than 4M. And apart from the much better public transport, the roads are not all broken, like the ones that I’ve experienced in LA.


Quite right, every other city in the world is either smaller or larger than the cities we're talking about! What a shame we can't apply any proven solutions from them.


London has OK public transit, but it’s atruggling in a lot of ways. Paris really does have a fantastic system, compared not only to the US, but UK as well. Japan has a very effective one, but good luck getting a group other than the Japanese to accept being shoved into a can like sardines twice a day.


(City of) Amsterdam has a slightly higher population density than Los Angeles, as does London and they both have effective public transport networks.

LA's problem is roads, it's also one of the reasons LA became the bank robber capital of the world based on reading A Burglar's Guide to the City by Geoff Manaugh



I've sometimes thought that the best direction to go here would be flying buses, or trains, and not flying personal vehicles.

Flying mid-range vehicles linking park-and-rides with city centers, or neighborhood-to-neighborhood, makes more sense to me than expanding the existing congestion upward.


Yep.

Any "solution" that involves a passenger vehicle is an improvement of a critically flawed and failed paradigm and not a true sustainable solution.


And noisy unless I'm mistaken.


This is really the worst externality of "flying cars," or whatever you want to call short-range commuter aircraft. In absence of some exotic propulsion technology (what usually powers flying cars in science fiction), the amount of air that must be displaced to loft a vehicle carrying one to four people will always be orders of magnitude louder than a land vehicle.


Noise was certainly a problem for this proposed inter-city transport:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairey_Rotodyne https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9633v6U0wo


Sailplanes carry 2 people and can be launched almost without any noise at all using an electric winch (common in Europe).

If you wanted to use this for commuting, just add a front electric sustainer to it. By the time the sustainer turns on, the aircraft is already pretty high altitude.

It'd be just as quiet as a land vehicle due to the greater distance away from the hearer.

but yeah, helicopters are likely to be fairly loud.


You're not a free flight aviator, are you? I don't mean to be rude, it's just that I've found that people who don't fly things are always much more optimistic and naive about the realities of air travel than actual pilots are. I'm not trying to sound snarky- I had the same level of optimism and bright ideas for the uses of air travel until I got an aerospace engineering degree and started flying hang gliders.

Sailplanes wouldn't work for commuting because of, in order:

1. Difficulty of training 2. Pilot liability for accidents 3. Weather 4. Space required to take off and land


I'm a sailplane, powerplane and a paraglider pilot and experimental airplane owner, with two decades of soaring flight behind. I have a micro-scale meteorology and atmosphere modeling as a hobby. I work as an engineer and computer vision researcher, on autonomous vehicle project.

My expert opinion - for limited delivery applications sailplanes could work. You need to do it right - sample and model atmosphere from the vehicle and ground, use gravity to accelerate and decelerate to flying speed, complete automation to remove the pilot. It's not easy. But it is not impossible.

(Incidentally, if someone is willing to drop me ~500k in an attempt to build a prototype - I might consider investing the time required.)


I agree with you for "limited delivery applications", by if we're talking about limited delivery applications, why wouldn't we just use low-cost powered flight? Much safer and more controllable.


Low cost eVTOL flight? It has high external costs of noise pollution. Also the eVTOL is nessesarily a complicated machine. The cost of that complexity is high.

By talking sailplanes, I didn't mean unpowered flight. Of course you need power, to counteract drag . I was primarily referring to a form-factor (clean, efficient and and silent like a sailplane) and to a mode of takeoff and landing (convert speed to altitude with a wing, instead of eVTOL).


I'm in training to become one. I've flown a sailplane a few times now.

I'm merely pointing out one method that would allow near-elimination of noise.

...and you can fly a sailplane at a younger age (13 for solo flight) than you can drive (usually 16). And driving has most of those concerns as well.


1 could be handled by a full autopilot; perhaps it can make 2 a non-issue; and by planning aircraft landing and take off centrally, 4 could be dealt with as well.


Autonomous car: - drives pretty much on a plane - able to stop when confused - precise speed and direction control - stable (i.e. does not oscillate or slide) - uses the same environment (the actual road) for reference and "handling" (tire grip) - anyone with IQ > 70 can drive one

Autonomous sailplane: - flies in 3D space with pitch, roll, yaw - has both MAX (Vne) and MIN (stall) speed, can't stop and wait - can't even stop descending (!) - HEAVILY influenced by wind and thermal conditions - pretty unstable, oscillates when upset - can not use ground as visual reference reliably - flying one is no joke even for a human, requires serious training

Good luck with your full autopilot.


Autonomous car is harder than autonomous plaine. An autonomous plane can be flown with near-zero accidents by dGPS and traffic control alone. Try that with a car ;) . But take an autonomus plane, add an atmospheric model - you can have an autonomous sailplane.


It can be FLOWN with near zero-accidents by dGPS and control alone. That's steady/level flight, not counting issues with weather, launching, landing, and responding to in-flight emergencies. In a driving failure case, you crash or slow down, and you generally keep the accident constrained to the road. In a flying failure case, you've got a high-speed projectile moving in 3 directions.


Flown = Takeoff, flight, landing, emergencies handling.

What pilots usually do during emergency is to go through the checklist. There is not much room for improvisation.

Vehicles - it is a completely different level of problem. If you try to drive with dGPS alone, you will collide almost immediately. Even on the empty road, because dGPS is not good enough. And actually, it is almost AGI-complete problem, as you need to model and interact with other traffic participants.


> Good luck with your full autopilot.

While it doesn't completely negate your argument...

https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/zero-hab-glider/

http://izzybrand.com/


If you wanted to use this for commuting, just add a front electric sustainer to it.

How about a solution for a VTOL craft, like the Boeing vehicle? How about an airship with high speed winches, with smaller drones managing the ends of the cables? The cables could attach to aircraft that want to take off, which would be pulled up to a height where their rotor noise wouldn't be so annoying.


This is an interesting idea - and sailplanes can carry a lot more than 2 people :) ex. Waco CG-4 .

That said, they were also nick named "flying coffins".

re: winch tow - when I was an Air Cadet in canada as a teen, we used to fly in schweizer 2-33's and occasionally went up on the winch - it was absolutely exhilarating!


That's a glider, but not really a sailplane...

...I've flown a 2-33. It's not much better than the Waco! :)

Unfortunately, I haven't flown it with a winch.


Helicopters are loud because the blades cross over the airframe and are powered by turbines. An electric multicopter based design could have significantly lower noise levels.


If going by the noise emitted by your average consumer drone, and scaling it up, I think the opposite is probably true - it would be crazy loud.


Consumer drones aren't really aiming for quiet though. My racing drones are very buzzy since the small 3-5in props are fast spinning to have quick reaction time. My heavy lift photography drone with its slow 12in props (aiming for efficiency) is way larger and much quieter.


Few consumer level drones make any effort at noise reduction. Blade and shroud design can significantly impact noise production.



That's where Elon's tunnels are undeniably the better 3D alternative.


Elon's tunnels are the worst 3D alternative. The hourly capacity of a single city bus exceeds the daily capacity of an Elontunnel.

For example: Elon has proposed a tunnel to Dodger stadium. However, the existing Union Station-Stadium shuttles can (and do) handle 10x the proposed Elontunnel's max daily capacity in about an hour or two depending on traffic.


Couldn't one put buses in these tunnels? One could even mix buses and cars when the buses aren't taking up all the space.

I don't quite get the hate for Elon's tunnels. Let him and his team try and build them and see if they work. Super cheap tunneling would be great for so many things. That is, unless you think that humans have too much power and think we should regress back to some more primitive lifestyle. "Try to help make a future that you would like to live in." Traffic congestion sucks. It would be great to get rid of it. Cheap tunnels could be one way to help. Why stop people from trying?

He did start and still runs a company that makes reusable rockets. You have to try to do something before you know what is possible.


As a cynical person, I've seen many US discussions of "why invest in public transport when Hyperloop and the Boring Company have the solution coming up in a few years?"

Transport investment is like planting a tree. The best time to build it is twenty years ago, and the second best time to do it is now. Elon has basically given cover to NIMBYs to hide behind a supposedly new amazing future solution that may never come.


There is plenty of capital in the world right now that there is no reason not to build all different kinds of new transportation schemes. Elon's first tunnel got NIMBYed. One main feature of tunnels is that you can, hopefully, put them lots of places where surface building is impossible. What people put in them will be up to the builders.

Construction costs has not come down in price over time like many other things have. I think he hopes that the Boring Company can list a price/mile for tunneling that is much lower than current costs and let people actually budget them. Maybe sell these better machines to other construction companies at some point. He broke the cost-plus pricing for satellite launches. Just think what something like that for tunneling could do for transportation systems. Billion dollar overruns are on the digger not the public. That would be great.


If you actually look into construction projects, including extremely expensive American ones, tunnel boring is not a significant cost.

The actual cost comes in station digging; stations need to be high throughput and extremely reliable, which favors complexes with a large footprint and thus more required property taking, usually in dense urban areas that require complicated engineering. For highway tunnels the similar cost factor are onramps and offramps; if you want a ramp to be safe and efficient at high speed you need a lot of space.

Hyperloop “solves” this problem by proposing elevators. Very few metro stations are elevator only because they are low throughput and are prone to mechanical failure, as opposed to staircases that are not.

An interesting writeup on the case study of the Second Avenue Subway: https://pedestrianobservations.com/2018/01/27/construction-c...


Yes. With cheap tunnels one could hope to plan for many exits and a large network that goes everywhere. Like a road system, but underground. Imagine an early city where all the roads are really just paths in the dirt that are completely rutted and almost impassible when it rains. Someone proposes to pave the main road with cobblestones. This is really expensive and wont help people travel on all of the other paths that still won't be paved.

Ok. Give up I guess; bad idea.

No. Let's start with this one, fix the various problems that arise, discover how to make a good paved road with the least amount of labor and resources, and continue to expand the paved network to reach everywhere in the city.

This is what happened. Would you want to go back to unpaved roads in a city? Traffic congestion is killing American society. I like American society. Many people don't like to live all packed together but still want to work with other people and have the amenities that cities enable. Cars and interstate roads allowed that for a few decades but now we need a new system to continue expansion of the free flow and interaction of people. Underground roads could replace interstates and we could turn them into grand boulevards for pedestrians, bikes, and other slow vehicles. Wouldn't that be great? Almost all car traffic is underground. Would you support such an idea?


Elon's tunnels are the worst 3D alternative. The hourly capacity of a single city bus exceeds the daily capacity of an Elontunnel.

For example: Elon has proposed a tunnel to Dodger stadium.

Fixed wing airplanes are the worst flight alternative. The passenger capacity of a single hot air balloon far exceeds the passenger capacity of an airplane. For example: A Wright Flyer.

Sorry, but this is a bit strawmannish. You do realize it's a proof of concept project, right? It's not like the Falcon 1 disproves the capacity of all SpaceX rockets, ever.


That’s wildly inaccurate. First busses reduce the ability of a road to transit cars \ trucks. So actual gain is significantly less than nominal gain.

Second even with a single passenger vehicle, a tunnel can move people over it’s full distance at the same time. Consider a bus moving people on a 5 minute trip vs 50 minute trip on the second case it’s got 1/10 the capacity.

Sure, a 3.5 mile tunnel adds little on it’s own. But, then again it’s also short.


It's not inaccurate at all. A tunnel is strictly bound on surface traffic--because traffic has to enter and exit it--when it doesn't involve slow, failure-prone, low-capacity access points at either end.

While we're at it, optimizing for number of vehicles rather than number of passengers is a very...how do I put it...rich way of thinking about things. Which jibes very well with Elon Musk's whole thing: "mass transit is great so long as I don't have to see the poors."


If you watch the talk, the plan is for autonomous pods that holds passengers with their bikes. Little buses basically. And also cars. You can’t just read the media reports, they are always about max outrage.


I miss the days when I could mostly read news that played on awesome, not outrage.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE3j_RHkqJc


Is this assuming a single car at a time in the tunnel? Otherwise I don't see how it could possibly be true. That's absurdly low volume. Like a regular road would beat it easily.


Not a single car, but a lot fewer than Elon wants you to believe. We already know that the baseline technology being proposed works. Guided buses have been in use for a long time now. But there's a reason it's used with buses, not individual cars. And it's for a pretty simple reason: the loading process into the tunnels can't be fast. Much hay is being made about minimal surface disruption, but elevators are slow. As is driving into a guide tray that moves the car along.

donoteat01 does pretty fantastic video work about a number of urban planning topics and he's shot this one full of holes already. You should watch it if you're curious. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dn6ZVpJLxs


"the loading process into the tunnels can't be fast"

Why is that the case and can it be fixed? I would say that this problem would be easier to solve than the problem of getting a orbital class rocket booster to go into space, launch the second stage, and then return to the launch pad and land.

Musk likes to work from first principles to try and understand what is possible. What is the physics behind why you can't have a very full, steady stream of vehicles going through a tunnel? Nothing really. The vehicles just have to be very well controlled. With a good auto-vehicle you should be able to pack them in and have them enter and exit into the stream of traffic. Like a real road, only better. Why would you not want someone of Musk's caliber to not try to do this? My dad would rather have him working more on getting the automatic car working so he can continue commuting to work. I can understand that objection, but he says the Boring Company is only about 2-5% of his time. If you want something to happen you try and decide if it is possible, and then try and do it. Not spend you time figuring out how not to do it.


From what I can tell the bottleneck is a single slow freight elevator. It doesn't seem like a fundamental problem with the underlying technology, just an implementation detail.


It can't be fast because the constraints he's laid out don't allow them to. Elevators don't work that way. Neither does braking safety. (Run the numbers yourself, or go watch that donoteat01 video. It's farcical on its face.)

The rest of your post is weird heroification and I'd have to bleach myself after interacting with it, so I won't.


> the loading process into the tunnels can't be fast

True, but a loading/unloading time of 30-60 seconds only means the tunnels are less feasible for short trips.


This is true--but then a top speed of 140mph, as asserted by Elon and company, is unlikely to be feasible because the cars involved won't have time to accelerate to that speed before needing to decelerate at a human-comfortable speed for arrival (which then causes knock-on effects on everybody else in that tunnel system, and I hope their braking systems all work perfectly forever).

And we haven't even gotten into how a top speed of 140mph will burn the hell out of street tires.

It's just...dumb. It's not thought out. It's aggressively reality-averse. It's thought-leadery as hell.


Absolutely.

People are super confused about this. The reporting wasn't very good and you have to look beyond it. The original idea is

- little 16 person passenger pods with bikes, wheelchairs, and luggage. $1 fare.

- possibly sleds for cars

- you can stack tunnels (think of them as car lanes in 3D), so you can have 20, 50 or 100 lane highways

- you make lane changes autonomously, so the subway pods can have different destinations

- it's all electric so there isn't poisonous engine exhaust

This is just people boarding a bus, the throughput is super high.

Even sled loading can be pretty fast, imagine replacing 20 street parking spots with sled elevators. Then accelerated to 100 mph, that too is a lot of throughput.

Here's the pod part of the Boring company talk. It's worth watching to see what they are proposing. https://youtu.be/AwX9G38vdCE?t=1372

Elon and company got excited that they built a tunnel, which is a real achievement. So they drove a Tesla through it. The media knows what you want, which is max outrage, so they reported that the 1% will get tunnels with their Teslas. You will be stuck in gridlock behind a diesel truck.

They should not have driven a Tesla through it, it was a PR blunder.

Here is a Heathrow pod experiment: http://www.bbc.com/autos/story/20140910-hands-off-with-heath...


These are just small trains. If it was built today you could automate the Boston Green Line too - the technology already exists.

The main issue with building tunnels is cost. Tunnels aren't cheap and are hard to scale because soil conditions are extremely local and you have to tailor boring machines to ground conditions. Egress points are expensive, especially in dense urban areas where property values are sky high. You could use elevators instead of stairs, but the problem is that elevators are low-throughput and unusable in the event of unreliability.

Even considering all that, Elon did build a tunnel, but the tunnel was quite short and also quite small. There's not really room for emergency ventilation, or egress walkways with exits or safety points every 300m, or really anything that modern fire codes would require. Once you add all that in the tunnel is not really narrower than a subway train, at which point you might as well build a subway train. And why not? The New York subway has a capacity of 60,000 people per hour per direction using signals from the 1930s. A highway lane only carries about 2,000 people per hour. And all of that's assuming your low-capacity elevator entry can handle all of that.

PRT just combines the inefficiency of the automobile with the cost of actually building transit. There is a reason that PRT experiments have never been replicated elsewhere at large scale.


Sure--insofar as eventually, once they fail, the tunnels are already the correct size for a standard subway car for actual mass transit that can actually help people. 'Cause the on-street traffic jams they would--not "might", check out donoteat01's stuff for a full breakdown--create are not exactly a better situation.


The thing is that such a "nice" city only works with a small population. For large cities you either build denser and ever denser areas or you spread out like crazy with all the negative side effects.

Otoh here in Berlin we would benefit massively if we could live maybe up to 100km out of the city and travel fast and cleanly to, say, Tempelhof. Wenn have huge areas of land here where you can live a very nice life but work is in the city. Biking such distances is out of the question and roads and trains simply cannot connect all the places equally well.


What's wrong with dense? Plenty of livable places that are dense.

Better to conserve land, nature and the environment than to destroy remaining areas where wildlife can thrive.


Dense means a strained infrastructure, congestion of daily life, and -not the least- makes it neigh impossible for average Joe to own some real estate. The last point is a severe factor for gentrification IMO.

Now the countryside on the other hand is, at least here, partially empty. Population shrinks and villages collapse. The elderly live in deserted ghost towns. Existing infrastructure cannot maintained. This is not wild nature out there but rather a dystopia.


You are confusing correlation for causation. Dense doesn't mean average Joe can't own real estate; it's just that both density and high prices are both effected by a common factor (high demand). But you plan for both density and affordability.


I don't see anything wrong with Flying cars, conceptually. I would love to be able to cut my commute time by 1/3, imagine all the new job possibilities, and how many more candidates companies will have.

The problem is, maybe it can never be done cost effectively enough to make viable for everyone. I mean, we can't even make simple trains cheap: here in CA, it costs almost 250$ a month to BART back and forth


Imagine a noise of your "flying car" taking off, reaching to the houses underneath from above. Unobstructed by buildings or trees. A bullet from a less privileged neighborhood, over which a flight path is sets intercepts it. Fire starts, ballistic parachute fires and deploys, but the "flying car" collides with a light pole, in an uncontrolled landing. Your last wish is - you'd listened in 2019 and financed a tunnel instead ;)


these are all problems that can be solved. the question is, at what cost? will tunnels be cheaper? i have no idea.


> will tunnels be cheaper?

Per person? It’s hard to imagine a subway being more expensive than flying cars... even with the US’ ridiculous public works costs.


As far as I know, physics doesn't allow eVTOL noise to be solved. You need something different than eVTOL.


The problem is that any flying object creates a massive invisible wake behind it which means that they can't be packed too closely. Birds have evolved special flight patterns to form a flock so that they don't get knocked out by each others' downdrafts. Air-propelled flying cars can never travel as close together as grounded cars, and consequently don't fix traffic much at all. If you were to invent some sort of antigravity device, this might be different, but I'm not going to hold my breath for that!


Elon Musk makes the assertion that it’s as simple as: buildings in cities are 3 dimensional, roads are 2 dimensional.

It’s not poor urban design, it’s geometry.


It's an oversimplified saying by Musk. Cars, buses, bicycles, trains, and pedestrians are all 3-dimensional "objects", however the issue is cars simply take up way too much public space. Having 1 person per 5 man car and having 90% of people use those 5-man cars is clearly a very sub-optimal solution. If we convert 50% of those drivers to other modes of transport, we'd see a LOT less congestion, without tunnels or flying cars or anything new.


It's easier to understand if you think about the tunnels as lanes. Each tunnel can still have busses and cars, but you can also stack them on top of each other. You can do that above ground too, but it looks super ugly and you can't really go 10 stories high. Underground you can.

He probably shouldn't have driven a Tesla through it, the only message people got was that the 1% are going to have tunnels. Really you'd run autonomous buses and 4 person taxis through it. Easy to imagine it being much cheaper than public transit too.


This sounds more likely, it's much easier to imagine 20 tunnels than 20 lanes of traffic (250 feet wide). And much pleasanter to have it all underground where you don't have to look at it.


Elon Musk isn't an expert on urban design, so why should we care that he has a simplistic quip about a really hard problem?


Informed people understand scale. Going from 2D to 3D is like going from O(n^2) to O(n^3). It's quite a big difference at scale. Going up in dimensionality is like going from one order of magnitude to another, only more so. (Actually, it often makes an additional two or more orders of magnitude accessible.)


I'm surprised at the traffic levels in Dubai given the city's focus on building metro and a fairly decent public transportation system(road and water). What is missing out in this city? These guys have all the money and a free hand in implementing policy without any opposition.


Dubai's growth has been and continues to be mind-bogglingly fast. San Francisco and Vancouver saw their population grew by about 20% each since 2000. Dubai grew by over 150%. Current growth rates are about 5% year-on-year.

You can plan all you want, but it's hard for planning to keep up with Dubai.


Yes! Like many other baby-boomer dreams, the dream of "flying cars" in reality is an ugly noisy nightmare for the city.

It's the same story of building bridges and super-highways, through the downtown because they "look good" and "let you put your name on it", without caring for the residents.

For transportation we need tunnels, not bridges.

And if you want something flying other the city - build a silent glider that uses only the energy of raising currents of air and gravity to accelerate for take off and decelerate to land. Or another silent vehicle. Not a stupid noisy flying car.


LA would probably be a lot easier to get around if it had 1/7 of the people it has now.


Walkability, density, and population are all distinct features of an urban setting. You could have a highly zoned, non-walkable city that is very dense. You could have a lightly populated city that is not walkable because of sprawl (see: all the countless cities defined by "stroads").

Sprawl occurs as a result of tax policy, transportation infrastructure, zoning, and other factors.

One could envision a version of LA with less vacant lots, less surface-level or curbside parking, less single-story fast food franchises, etc. One could envision an LA with an efficient transportation like Hong Kong.

It is completely possible to achieve livability with a high population and high density. Indeed, that generally will correlate with more cool stuff to do.

Reducing population would by no means necessarily lead to walkability or livability.


Flying cars are in theory more "efficient" than public transportation, because public transportation doesn't take you directly from your home to your destination unless by accident (e.g. you happen to travel to destination which is right at a public transportation stop). Even then, that route probably doesn't take the shortest path, but rather zigzags through major locations. In addition, it's not realistic to assume every single public transporation line runs 24/7 every 3 minutes, which means you need to plan ahead instead of leaving whenever you want to.

In fact, the ideal "public transportation" is a private vehicle, like this kind of a autonomous flying vehicle, which will transport you whenever and wherever you want. It's not a band-aid, it's solving the root cause. Public transportation is the band-aid, which cannot in practise solve the problem ideally.


Ideal in terms of travel time efficiency, not energy efficiency or space efficiency.

Travel time is the wrong property to optimize for when we're looking at transportation and urban design. It's the mistake we've made in America for the last century.

We should be optimizing for quality of life and health. Optimizing for those things yields design like Copenhagen -- bike paths, walking paths, trains and busses for longer trips. It's quiet. It's energy efficiency. It's much better for our health. It encourages healthy social interaction and the feel of community.


Flying autonomous vehicles can reasonably be energy efficient, and clearly are space efficient (due to the three dimensions that provide plenty of space).

Travel time is the correct property to optimize for my values. I don't want to spend unnecessary time in transit. That's a subjective value, of course.

You can optimize for quality of life, health and short travel times at the same time. Copenhagen might be a good target with current level of technology, not necessarily the technology of future.

I don't care for imposed social interaction due to public transportation. People don't really interact with strangers in public transportation anyway (in my culture that is).


>Travel time is the wrong property to optimize for when we're looking at transportation and urban design.

You'll probably eat those words. Or maybe your grandchildren or great great grandchildren will.

The value of human time has been steadily going up for millennia. We used to have slaves build pyramids and pick cotton, now we use machines. We used to churn our own butter. Now there's enough wealth in the world that we can afford to have butter specialists make butter and logistics specialists get it to the store shelves. Tasks that we used to think it was reasonable to allocate human time and effort two we no wouldn't think about doing manually today.

I would be highly surprised if in the future we did not continue to optimize for smaller travel times. Of course there are energy and space trade-offs. I think it's highly likely that we will chose to solve the problems caused by those trade-offs rather than having people endure longer travel times when we have the power to shorten them (with tradeoffs).

Spending less and less human time on "overhead" tasks (like churning butter, washing clothes, traveling, etc.) has been a constant theme for millennia. I do not see any reason why that will change.


> Ideal in terms of travel time efficiency, not energy efficiency or space efficiency.

Not even in terms of the first, because of the last; it's the optimal individual choice in terms of travel time, but making it the socially dominant option produces sprawl (because of space inefficiency); and flying doesn't actually change that (because any dense arrangement means high concentration near the endpoints, and because flight in built up areas is problematic.)


Ideally, I'd just walk and use no vehicles at all to be most effective.

This assumes lots of services, jobs, and housing all within decent walking distances which is quite common in older (European) cities.

Merely walking doesn't scale but the natural extension for longer distances is to walk to a suitable public transit stop, hop on the train/tram/subway, waiting for a while, and continue walking to your destination.

This will also effectively double the locations you might be interested in visiting: you can walk around near home and you can walk around near your workplace.

So, you can use the most effective mode of transport i.e. walking around hundreds of locations (shops, restaurants, services) but you can also switch the whole area by changing transit to another local centre.

It's like looking up stuff really fast in the whole cache line, and then making calculated jumps to read another location into your cache and continuing to traverse locally there.


Even more ideally you can fly anywhere quickly instead of settling for either long transportation times or walking to whatever is nearby.


This would be the case if businesses were scattered around like in the auto-centric USA.

There's no way any transport can be more efficient than me walking a couple of blocks and checking out maybe 100 doors to different businesses to be considered on my way.


The ideal "public transportation" being a private vehicle completely ignores climate change issues. Even an electric private vehicle needs to charge from the grid which so far isn't very sustainable, plus each private vehicle needs its own power. The fact of the matter is shared public transportation is the most sustainable option we have.


This is important - the idea that the future is a private flying vehicle is an artifact of 20th century science fiction. It does not fit into 21st century ecological and economic realities.


Agree with the current level of technology. That's why Boeing is developing new technology to solves these issues.


Due to noise and safety issues, none of these new VTOL aircraft are going to operate in residential neighborhoods. They certainly aren't going to land in your driveway. In some cases they might be a good option for short trips across congested urban areas, but they'll still have to operate from designated landing pads. So they won't do anything to solve the last mile transportation problem.


> In some cases they might be a good option for short trips across congested urban areas

Well, if you need to get from an uncongested area to an uncongested area with a congested urban areas in between and no bypass motorway, and no accessible public transit maybe.

If either origin or destination is congested adding take-off and landing traffic is just going to make things worse.


Private transports are efficient at delivering individuals to locations. Public transport has the advantage of delivering a lot of people to an approximation of their destination. The latter enables more urban density and more efficient cities overall.


There's nothing preventing "flying cars" of delivering a lot of people to various locations. 3D space is quite large.


"Private transports are efficient at delivering individuals to locations"

Not all locations though - I wouldn't dream of driving to work in central Edinburgh as the drive would be a pain, take longer and the parking would be more expensive than getting the train.


That’s not how “efficient” works. Not only do you look at each person individually instead of the whole system, in which everyone having their whole transport is ridiculously inefficient in required space, energy and coordination effort alone, it’s also likely to actually be so incredibly inefficient on the whole system that the value breaks down for each individual person, even if you completely overlook the drastic side effects on the whole system, by not actually getting anybody anywhere in a timely manner.

Thinking like this baffles me, I can only hope that you are very young.


If the vehicle is flying and autonomus (like what Boeing is developing), then there's plenty of space in three dimensions. Coordination should be solvable with software. Energy use is an interesting factor, of course. There are possibilities (like cheap nuclear power) to solve that.


Because those vehicles can move in the third dimension as easily as in the other two? Because this wouldn't require an intense amount of coordination between vehicles, and tons and tons of added security measures and protocols, given that cars can now literally fall from the sky and onto each other? Because the resources to build those magic cars are easily and sustainably acquirable? Because this does not need a much more involved inspection and maintenance infrastructure? Because energy considerations has been solved, and things "like cheap nuclear power" are safely and readily available? And the insane amounts of power required are so easy to distribute among those ubiquitous cars?

I just don't see how this is "efficient".


It's true that 2D is a lot easier than 3D. It would also require a lot of new technology. It is a solvable problem, though, and we need to solve it to some degree even today (due to airplanes). The need to solve coordination will only increase thanks to proliferation of drones, too.


I agree with you, but it's not any uglier than a train.


Ugly and for the foreseeable future, LOUD.


Why now? (Or why soon)? Or why might flying cars actually happen this time?

The enabling tech is battery density. Battery density (per kg) has been increasing 5-8% a year (doubling every 10 years). That seems slow compared to transistors (doubling every 2 years), but compound growth sneaks up on you. Enough that an electric car seemed dumb 20 years ago and obvious now.

Urban human quadcopters are unlikely, a car like number of these in cities is hard to imagine. Even with silent electric motors, the noise from take off and landing from air displacement exceeds safe noise levels, and is far above nuisance levels. So I'd guess 2-30 times as much traffic as current helicopters. Also they can and will fall down on expensive stuff and nice people.

The more plausible market is medium range 4 person air taxis, from small airport to small airport, 50 to 400 miles. That's NYC to Boston, SF to LA, Portland to Seattle.

This Boeing story says 50 miles. Pipistrel's Alpha Electro, a 2 seater plane, has a 93 mile range with another 45 miles as reserve (138 total).

In 2029 with similar battery improvement, that will be 231 miles with 45 miles in reserve. The regulatory challenges will be difficult, but in about 2025 you could launch a viable autonomous air taxi company somewhere in the world.

Existing advantages:

- Drone autonomy is already or easily solved, so you don't pay for a pilot.

- Electricity cost is low.

- Maintenance costs are much lower than gas engine planes.

- Even with maintenance, gas engines are less reliable.

Better battery tech unlocks these last three advantages and makes air taxies feasible.

[1] https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2015/october/pi...


You're assuming that the market is retail consumers. But this same tech is what allows you to purpose these vehicles, and vehicles like them, for things like emergency courier services, for remote rescue, for military uses like exfiltration and so on.

The future is not one where there are tens of thousands of flying cars over every city, but there are plenty of edge cases where having a few would be wildly beneficial.


So basically, it's a cheaper helicopter?

Don't get me wrong, if safe enough and cheaper, it could open new usages, hopefully beyond "now, this 'big project manager' can also take it, it's not anymore reserved to the CEO". Usages like medical emergencies could actually be really useful. But it's hardly a progress for the masses and a solution to traffic congestion.


The helicopter market is small, about $30 billion a year sales in the US. GM had $111 billion dollar in sales. Tesla, which is still small, has $12 billion in sales. Total aircraft manufacturing sales in the US is $240 billion. [1]

Passenger airlines (like Southwest Airlines, not manufacturing) are at $175 billion in sales, something like air taxis would be very competitive in that market, and probably increase the market too.

A consumer market of $175-415 billion (upper end is domestic manufacturing + passenger airlines)[1] is a good place to start a big huge Apple / Uber / Tesla sized company. Those are market caps of $700B / $72B / $50B respectively.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerospace_manufacturer


The future is flying Uber for the 1% crowd.


You say this like it's a bad thing.

Automobiles, televisions, VCRs, computers, flush toilets, electric lighting... all started out as wildly expensive luxuries for the super rich. Then they got cheaper.


Even regular commercial flying was an endeavor exclusively for the rich. Now it's a commodity that's affordable to most.


I'll be buying that mass production 30 foot yacht any day now...


You can go out today and very easily buy a much smaller mass production sailboat. That would have been a pipe dream many years ago.


You don't even have to go smaller! If you're willing to buy used, a 30' yacht in good shape can be had for $10-$20k. Less, if you're willing to put a little work in.

If you can afford $500/mo in slip fees, you can probably afford the boat. I know people with boats in Santa Cruz that live on extremely modest incomes.


Transistor progress is still a major if not the primary factor. The power requirements have gone down while battery density went up.

Try running an Osborne 1 on a modern laptop battery for example.


Even with silent electric motors, the noise from take off and landing from air displacement exceeds safe noise levels, and is far above nuisance levels.

I would have fast airships with high speed winches hovering over the pads, with the ends of the cables managed by smaller drones. This would enable the passenger drones to take off assisted, with their motors only providing control forces, until they reach an altitude where their noise at full power isn't such a nuisance.


5% yearly growth would be a doubling every 14 years, not every 10.


Good point, it's really 5-8% a year, historically it did double in 10 years, which is at 7% growth. I edited the original.


You just made me more excited for the next decade :).


What a terrific compliment. Thank you!


A) That's the bastard lovechild of a quadcopter and a plane

B) It doesn't even have wheels, how is it a car?

C) What is that tiny propeller on the back for? I would assume a quadcopter design would propel forward via tilting, the way any normal quadcopter would...do the 4 propellers just _lift_ it?

D) In what world would this thing not require like 3 different complex flight licenses just to be allowed to fly, let alone use in an urban environment?


> It doesn't even have wheels, how is it a car?

To play devil's advocate: it's a flying car in the sense of "a small enclosed powered vehicle that takes a few passengers from A to B without a guide track, only it flies instead of drives" not "a normal car that can also fly". Just like "electronic books" replicate the basic functionality of (traditional) books, but don't use the same methods.


It is a helicopter then.

Unless it is significantly cheaper to operate or quieter, I don't understand the benefits of these new vehicles/ form factor.

Maybe the hope is that cities will not regulate them, but I am not sure why they would. Please enlighten me if there something else obvious I missed. If both Boeing and Airbus are working on it, there must be something else.


AFAIK they are intended to be quieter, cheaper, and safer. The same story as electric vehicles - fewer moving parts means lower maintenance costs, but particularly important when talking about air vehicles is that it also means fewer things which can break during flight. Helicopters are nasty dangerous, largely because they’re maintenance heavy and there’s little redundancy. “Drones” could address both of these.

Also much easier to fly I imagine.

The Uber Elevate white paper probably has a lot more info: https://www.uber.com/elevate.pdf/


They use electricity, so cheaper is highly likely. Also 50 mile (80 km) range is pretty short, so very short-haul... probably initially good for VIPs who just want to avoid big city traffic. Also it looks somewhat smaller and lighter than a regular helicopter, so perhaps it could land in places where helicopters aren't normally allowed?


A.) True.

B.) News outlets are sensational. This is an aircraft, but people equate the future to flying "cars." Also, pedantically speaking, car doesn't have to mean automobile. Car comes from carriage, which was drawn by a horse. By your logic a car should require a horse too, right? :o)

C.) This is a vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) fixed-wing aircraft. The outboard rotors provide vertical lift during takeoff and landing (so yes they are designed to just _lift_ it), but in flight the rear rotor provides forward thrust while the wings provide vertical lift. I assume the outboard rotors will be seized during cruising speeds, or spinning to provide extra lift assuming the fixed wings are not designed to carry the weight of the aircraft themselves during cruise.

D.) If this were to be flown today, it would likely not meet existing civil regulations. Experimental registration and certification aside, there isn't anything like it that isn't military (i.e. the V-22 Osprey) and I don't know of anything that has both VTOL and fixed wing certification. But as you'd expect, part of this effort is to work with the FAA/ICAO to define regulation. It will probably require a single pilot license with perhaps a "VTOL fixed wing" endorsement, exhaustive training will be required, and will probably be allowed to land and anywhere a helicopter can land but be vectored as if it were a fixed wing.


Boeing calls it an autonomous passenger air vehicle. Bloomberg calls it a flying car.


The grand plan for these human size quadcopters is that they will be fully autonomous so no license will be required to operate one. You wouldn't even own it, you would hail it with an app and it would fly you to the destination you gave it in the app. They wouldn't even have controls on the inside, except for possibly an emergency stop button (which would tell the computer to set it down at the nearest viable landing pad).

The propeller at the back is for forward motion, presumably because it's less comfortable for human passengers to travel at a 60 degree forward tilt).


> B) It doesn't even have wheels, how is it a car?

"Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads."


>> B) It doesn't even have wheels, how is it a car?

Huh. I never considered that a basic requirement for a flying car is that it, well, would also be a land car.


I mean, if it's a "flying car" without wheels, and therefore needs either a landing pad or landing strip, then how is it a "car" and not either a "plane", "drone", or "helicopter" instead?


It's not a "car" - it's a flying car, and therefore doesn't need neither wheels nor roads. It can indeed also be type of an airplane or a helicopter - those descriptions aren't conflicting. I don't really understand the source of your confusion - are you equally perplexed that pineapples aren't actually apples, and sweet potatoes aren't real potatoes?


It should not be held to such high standards, young padawan. Rather, embrace the new unfolding technologies and revel in them.

It is a flying something, but that does not sound cool. Cars _are_ cool, so we call it flying car.

I'm personally working on a concept called the driving airplane. It cannot fly, but it will drive.


> the driving airplane. It cannot fly, but it will drive.

When can I invest?


There's even more coming in the same category for urban transportation:

Bell is building their Nexus.

https://www.bellflight.com/company/innovation/nexus


I don't need wheels on my flying car--it can fly. I would expect it to be car-sized though. At 30'x28', this thing takes up eight standard parking spaces ...


A counterpoint: there may be areas where you cannot fly a flying car, but you could drive one. Areas near airports or military installations, mountainous areas that have strong updrafts/downdrafts but decent roads and tunnels, narrow streets or areas with a lot of overhead power lines.

To me, "car" implies still being able to enter those areas like other people with traditional automobiles.


Why do people immediately understand the negative externalities and implications of self-navigating cars, but once flight is added into the mix, they seem to think that it's a viable solution?

The complexity and upkeep added once your hardware has to be in the air (at our current mass-market technology levels) are far from inconsequential. I wonder if once "flight" is added to an "automated" idea, it gets so far outside of people's understanding that it seems easy. People know how hard it is to drive a car, but they have no idea what's required to drive an airplane.


There are definitely maintenance concerns, but free flight autopilot is a much easier problem than autonomous ground vehicle piloting.

All of the proposed vehicles I've seen have a failsafe built in--typically a parachute, but you are correct that if it falls on someone's house, car, or person there is going to be a problem.


Parachutes need a certain amount of height to work correctly, are difficult to steer, can get twisted, tangled, etc and are at the mercy of overall atmospheric conditions.

Free flight autopilot I agree isn't a tough problem to solve- it's free flight launching, landing, and responding to rapid and dangerous changes in atmospheric conditions on autopilot that I'd be worried about.

When you're landing in free flight, you have one chance to set up your approach and landing, and conditions at the LZ can change rapidy- without constant distance and wind measuring equipment as well as enough space to come in a little too high, you're in a very difficult and dangerous situation.

So if we're now taking about needing essentially an airstrip with sensors, it's basically an airport.

I don't think that autopiloted free flight is an impossibility, I just think it's an impossibility for mass-produced untrained consumer use.


Genuinely would love for you to say more. As a (relatively newly minted) pilot, my head goes the opposite ways. All the negative externalities and issues around self-driving cars make sense to me, but I end up thinking that these are all simpler and easier dealt with in the flying case. What am I missing?


Launching, landing, and responding to emergency situations are all things I wouldn't trust an autopilot with. Liability involved when there's crashes on private lands would be extraordinarily difficult- as you know, airspace is managed much differently than roads are. Imagine if you could get hit by a car in your second-story bedroom.


Can you actually provide examples of the complexity and upkeep? To my eyes, it seems like these would be easier to maintain than many ICE vehicles, if they're just batteries, electric motors, and some kind of lift-generating blades.


In order to find problems with a car, you drive it until it starts making a weird noise or won't start, and then you pull over, call AAA, and send it to the mechanic.

There's no "pre-drive" inspection required like there is with all flying vehicles (it's not even safe to fly a low-complexity hang glider without a detailed pre-flight). The upkeep I'm talking about comes with constant and rigorous inspections of all of your single parts, and the consequences that come with failure. If one of your lift-generating blades has microcracks in it because it's been vibrating after an improperly set nut got a little loose, you could experience fan failure during flight and crash.


The whole "flying car" phrase gets tossed around far too much. Every "flying car" I've seen marketed, is either 1) a small VTOL airplane, or 2) a small airplane that folds up so it can be driven on the street. Most things are more airplane than car, so it's more accurate to say they are driving planes, than flying cars.

I've yet to see a car than can fly, i.e., something more car-like that can also fly.


There's this thing that transforms between plane and car: https://www.reddit.com/r/gifs/comments/ainmf2/from_car_to_pl...

It's kinda funny-looking, but at least it seems like equal attention was paid to the plane and car functions, rather than just making a plane that is theoretically road-worthy.

(Not sure how it's supposed to get better mileage in the air than on the ground, though.)


That's a good example of what I mean. I've seen that before as well, and it's more plane like than car, IMHO. Folding the wings just makes it a plane that you can fit into a lane on a street.


I can't imagine anything that is practical, fits in its lane, and can also fly efficiently. Not saying that it can't be done, but I have a hard time envisioning what it might look like.


It may not be practical, but in the world of scifi, I think we have lots of artistic attempts to design what such a vehicle might look like. Take most of the "cars" in The Fifth Element. They don't have wings, and are essentially cars that have some sort of lifting unit where tires would have been. But they look more car-like that plane-like, and fit what I think most of us regard as a "flying car".


It might look like this? (Warning - not pretty)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hafner_Rotabuggy



The flying Jeep and the flying Pinto (the latter had disastrous results).

I currently own a Jeep. My dad once owned a Pinto.

Who in their right mind would think "You know, this is the perfect car to strap some wings to!" for either of these vehicles?

That's just giving the middle finger to the god's of flight begging for a quick death.

Again, in the the flying Pinto's case - that's what happened.


Hahaha. Thanks, I was actually trying to picture what a helicopter car would look like, and now I know.


You're conflating car with automobile. Also you don't need any license as it is autonomous.


I think I conflated them because they are synonymous :^) From Google:

Definition of "car": a road vehicle, typically with four wheels, powered by an internal combustion engine and able to carry a small number of people.

Definition of "automobile": a road vehicle, typically with four wheels, powered by an internal combustion engine and able to carry a small number of people.


Popular usage has made them synonymous but the original definition of car that is being used here is not synonymous. Note there are elevator cars, train cars, etc. None of them are road vehicles with four wheels. A car is basically just a cart. Examples of this are words like decimate and awful where there is semantic drift.


Point taken. But still, the imagery of an automobile flying is what I've always thought of when I heard the phrase "flying car". Not a plane that can be driven.


Yeah me too


I never understood the appealing of flying cars. Not only it looks much more dangerous than cars in case of accidents, but also picture yourself living in a city with millions of these flying around, always covering sun light, noise, just visually horrible


Don’t confuse this with George Jetson’s flying car. These are primarily for flying from helipad to helipad. Getting the bigwigs to meetings during the day and perhaps from/to a suburban airport or landing pad for commute, with the last mile issue addressed with a standard car.

There are inherently many constraints in this type of market. Building owners are going to charge for access to their helipads. The fare is going to compare closer to hiring a helicopter than hiring an SUV rideshare. The approximate 50% duty cycle means roughly doubling the fleet size to eliminate gaps in availability. And finally, Aviation Authorities will limit the number of craft simultaneously operating in a given airspace.


"...much more dangerous than cars in case of accidents..."

To not just the occupants of the vehicles, but pedestrians below, too.

When walking along a road, there's always the (admittedly slight) chance of being either hit by a car or struck by debris from a nearby accident. Now imagine if that road (perhaps several) is above you! What previously might have been stopped by friction from the road now flies much farther....


> Now imagine if that road (perhaps several) is above you! What previously might have been stopped by friction from the road now flies much farther....

I work near a small regional airport, which used to be "in the middle of nowhere" but is now surrounded on all sides by office parks, malls, etc. Much like many airports, I suppose.

A couple of years back we had an accident where a small plane pilot lost control (I never found out the cause) and his plane crashed just beyond the end of the runway as he was taking off.

His plane "landed" in a small tree next to the sidewalk of a busy road. Shut it down for hours.

Nobody was seriously injured or killed; pilot and passenger "walked away" with minor cuts and scrapes, and nobody on the road or sidewalk was involved. Had it been a few hours later when rush hour occurred it might've been a different situation...

My employer is right below one of the flight lines for takeoffs and landings (my boss is working on his pilot's license); I can hear planes flying over, taking off, etc every day. I sometimes wonder about the idea of a plane crashing into the building, but there's nothing I can do about it, so it isn't something I dwell on.

That's just from one small regional airport. I can only imagine accidents from so-called "flying cars". I can believe such vehicles overall could be made safe, and accidents rare - but they will happen occasionally, that I don't doubt.


If noise was solved somehow, I think it would be awesome. I think you're underestimating just how much space there is above you. Guided cars in air-lanes wouldn't block much, and personally I think it would look pretty cool in a metropolis.



wow thats not even a plane in the video! its a square sled with quadcopter motors thats taking a plane body for a ride.

https://www.liftaircraft.com/ has what I think of when I think of a possible future mode of transporation through the air.


That's what I wanted to see. How can someone write an article about a test flight, with video that exists, and not link to the video.

THANKS!


Also how can they call it a flying car when it doesn't have any wheels? It's a quadcopter with wings. Unless Boeing has plans to add wheels later for driving?


Thank you for the video link!

Unfortunately that video is very uninformative....it goes up, then down. How does it maneuver? What's its speed like? There are some serious details lacking from all of this press.


So who's in favor of having these "air taxis" add to the noise envelope in residential and recreational areas -- as they no doubt will, and (for the scale these companies are obviously intending) quite considerably?

Let alone the carbon and resource footprint, per passenger-mile?

Anyone? Anyone at all?


... that's a plane -_-


> Future flights of the 30-feet-long and 28-feet-wide PAV prototype will test forward, wing-borne flight and the transition phase between vertical and forward-flight modes, according to the Boeing statement. The company will also continue testing to advance safety and reliability of the aircraft, it said.

Yeah, I don't know why the article uses the term car. Its clearly not.


Call me jaded, but these still sound like a wealthy person's toy. They are low occupancy, like cars, and also like cars, would be hard to have a significant number of these operating in an area without major safety issues, but worse because, given a flying vehicle accident, the chance of fatality or severe injury is far higher.


> "Chicago-based plane maker"

As someone who grew up in the Seattle area, this made me sad.


They are referring to AirBus with that sentence, although I initially parsed it wrong as well.


Airbus is European. Boeing's corporate HQ is in Chicago.


Can you elaborate on this?


Boeing's primary assembly is in the Seattle area.


Boeing moved their headquarters from the Seattle area to Chicago in 2001 for various reasons: https://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/11/business/chicago-offering...

Reminiscent of Amazon's HQ2 efforts.


Correct me if I am wrong, but the pictures seem to show a plane and not a flying car. Given the wing span, there is no way that would work as a car. So it is a small plane. A specialized plane for autonomous transport of small packages or one or two people. But still not a car!


That's more like a helicopter with wings than a flying car. There's no way you could land that into a parking space. You'd need something much more like a heliport.

So, maybe an improved "air taxi", in the same way that helicopters are used today in certain cities.

But not a flying car.


“Flying cars” like this would be great to have! For instance, emergency vehicles that don’t get stuck in traffic could save countless lives.

...We just need appropriate noise regulations, which will almost certainly prevent private citizens from operating them. Especially in cities.



Glad to see Boeing catching up :) The headlines in this space have been dominated by big names who are yet to demonstrate real capabilities, so it's good to see them taking baby steps.

Case in point: Our startup has been quietly flying a similar technology demonstrator since early 2018. While we don't get nearly as many headlines, occasionally something comes out: https://www.wired.com/story/beta-ava-flying-car-aviation/

PS: We're hiring :) If you are into hard software problems and want to join what could be the next Tesla but for aerospace, send me your resume: artur@beta.team


Spinning propellers are knee level doesn't seem like a great or safe design.


We've had flying cars for decades... they're called helicopters.


Its called NeXt. Not to be confused with NeXT Computer ;)


With rising sea levels in the future i suggest we rather look into personal submarines and underwater buildings.


flying car?

Looks more like a weird airplane




Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: