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The Pal-V flying car (pal-v.com)
164 points by pawelwentpawel on July 6, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 66 comments

Self driving cars first. Flying cars second. In that order, cannot happen the other way around. I agree with Erick Schmidt when he said "It's a bug that cars were invented before computers, or else humans would have never driven cars themselves". Hopefully we won't implement the same bug again.

Prescriptively, I agree. But descriptively, the economy isn't rational, and I bet we will implement that bug again: arguably the most essential and accurate message on that page is "ultimate freedom"—flying cars, and normal cars, and planes have rarely been motivated by the goal of efficient or safe transportation. Practical, rational people ride the train (or the bus) and rowdy kids whose prefrontal cortex still hasn't fully developed love their off roaders and street racers. As far as the "spirit of driving" goes, letting your car (or flying car or plane) drive (or fly) itself is tantamount to putting it on tracks. This website, their product, and the marketing all indicate that the motivation is purely irrational: the perennial lust for freedom, not for practical transportation.

What kind of nonsense is this? As a pilot (of both land and air vehicles) your sentiments seem completely irrational. Define "flying car"! There are tons of entrants in this category, and many that are fully functional. I can't say that I find them practical, or myself a potential early customer-- but not because of some misplaced sense that we need computers to handle the piloting for us.

And what of Eric's quote? Sounds like someone who's busy building a self-driving car-- not someone who loves the beauty of being a pilot!

Are we to cede all functions that we used to master to computers? Really?

Give me a break.

> Are we to cede all functions that we used to master to computers? Really?

People bake bread in their homes every day. Nothing is stopping anyone from doing it. But most people let a machine do it for them.

So will go piloting.

> Are we to cede all functions that we used to master to computers? Really?

We are. You don't have to for many things, but for instance a self-driving-car; it's very likely it will be forbidden to drive a car in 100 years yourself (only on special tracks) because computer driven cars will be much safer and you are a hazard. This will happen wether you like it or not; it's a question of when; I think 100 years is pessimistic (or optimistic depending on your POV) of me.

Mostly everything you buy or do will be computerized/made by robots in not too much time. Hopefully they'll find a better way of writing code so that we won't all die because of the many 1000s of bugs in everything, but it is not something you can stop.

Edit: you are on HN so I suppose you are interested in computers and live somewhere civilized; if you live in a jurt somewhere without internet/computers/phones (so far enough for mobile signals to reach you) you can hold up for at least your lifetime without all that probably :)

General safety was the first issue that came to my mind when seeing their website. If a thing like that goes viral we need to consider plenty of idiots on the roads making enough damage as it is already. Imagine giving them just additional angles from which they can crash into each other.

However, considering the current speed of research I believe (and hope) that before something like that goes "very" public and popular it will be already automated.

And Schmidt underestimates the thrill of driving and flying.

Self-flying air vehicles like this are probably easier to implement than cars. For simple reasons, such as there being no obstacles like roads, street lights, pedestrians, and because you have a 3rd dimension there is significantly more space so the vehicles can be more spread out. The trip itinerary is a lot easier because you're essentially going from point A to point B in a straight line. Also, starting from day one, you could mandate that no human is allowed to pilot these types of vehicles, so you wouldn't have a mix of human and computer pilots that you have with cars.

Well I agree with all that you're saying. But this is still a car. If you want it to make "the last mile", which can take you from your home door to work. Then you'll need it to drive on ground and deal with traffic with other cars. And then only fly if there's a good enough spot for both take off and landing. Just like the hybrid on the video.

I think can of a few dirty workarounds. But for this to be optimal, I still think we'd have to master fully automated both air and ground driving first.

I wonder how they would coordinate a large number of these flying objects, both in flight and while take off and landing. You know, large cities have millions of cars... It sounds really 'sci-fi' to imagine all those million cars flying :)

Easier? We use UAV's every day. What we have to do is make them able to land and take off reliably so that they don't kill their users. Thats a engineering problem and you could solve that in about 5-10 years.

The answer to safety issues should not be a matter of restricting people from operating them. By that mentality, you'd ban a huge range of very useful things.

I disagree, restricting humans is exactly what needs to happen for personal air travel to ever to be safe. The humans are the rogues, they're ones that are going to cause problems, not follow standard procedures, drink and fly, check their cellphones while flying etc. Imagine how much uncertainty and risk could be eliminated if you know that 100% of the vehicles in the air are all computer controlled, and use a common communication/navigation protocol. It would simplify everything.

Exactly. A sufficiently advanced "flying car" should be able to simply take a destination entered via smartphone, generate a flight plan, file the plan electronically, ping a regional air traffic control server for takeoff clearance, and run a preflight self-diagnostic, all in a matter of minutes.

Yep and then when the computer hangs up, or a lightning hits your plane and burn all the electronics, or the turbulence is so hi that the autopilot simply disconnects, or a sensor breaks in the middle of the flight and the flight computer throws erroneous predictions, or a software update introduces a bug that is active just in certain circumstances, etc... I think that eventually it will be possible but ( and I am talking of 30 million $ planes) actually there are simply to many failures too many times ( once a year is enough and I assure you that potentially dangerous failures happen far more often than that) to have a fully autonomous plane flying with people inside. Don't even start thinking of consumer grade planes.

A robotic car could be made to Self stop whenever a failure happens, that is a luxury that planes don't have.

The mix of human and computer pilots is inevitable. There has to be a manual override option. Otherwise, the cars simply won't sell, no matter how ultra steadfast and safe the technology is.

This is very cool - though this type of vehicle should really be called a "roadable-plane".

The real dream of the flying car is having the utility of a car (kids, groceries, etc.) with the ability to fly from point-to-point - not drive it on the road. The Jetsons had a flying car without wheels or roadability - that's the ideal.

This means the city-friendly / VTOL aspect is waaaay more important than the "fast taxi" approach being taken. The Moller M400 (I know vaporware) seemed A LOT closer to this.

Of course, the design of this vehicle makes more sense for today: land on a small runway on the outskirts of town, and then drive to your real location. This saves a ton of energy and seemingly works okay with existing infrastructure - assuming your city has a nearby airstrip.

The "real dream of the flying car" seems to differ from person to person.

Some people essentially want a flying machine that they can land in their driveway and parking lots, that they can take to the air for all but the shortest trips, with little need for "car" abilities. Others want something that's a car the majority of the time, but can fly on those midrange (60-600 miles) city-to-city trips.

VTOL on city streets is unlikely to be popular any time soon, largely due to safety concerns. But there's been a constant push for decades for something that can take off and land at small airstrips, and with only a few minutes' conversion work, can then drive over to grandma's house. Turning a 6 hour drive into a 3 hour flight would be a big deal.

I'm convinced that what's eventually going to turn the tide for these kinds of vehicles is if we can make a tiltrotor ducted fan thing with adjustable fan geometry _and_ wings. Something like the V-22 Osprey, except with adjustable ducts around the fans. This way, you can get both the high thrust required for takeoff and the low drag required for cruise. Wings are a requirement if you want to keep the fuel consumption low.

A vehicle like this wouldn't have comparable cruising speeds to airplanes (something like 80mph cruise), but could take off and land anywhere, and would have higher fuel efficiency than one of today's cars. There are actually canarded airplames today which cruise at 160 knots and use less fuel per mile than a car.

I'm actually surprised there isn't more research into these kinds of vehicles, but I guess the Osprey fiasco has everyone running scared.

This is more like a driving helicopter than a flying car. Although I think the gear required to safely operate isn't much worse than any fully dressed motorcyclist would wear.

I would easily trade my motorcycle for this, though.

I think the dream needs to include fuel efficiency.

I love gyrocopters and it was a slick website, so easy upvote from me.

$300K is way too steep, though. For that price why not buy a new Cessna and just drive a clunker to the airport?

And, for that matter, $300K is way too steep for a Cessna. The amount of money added to planes to cover lawsuits is insane. You end up buying an amount of gear that might sell retail for 30-50K for 10 times that much.

I'd love to fly this, but hell, I don't see why I'd paid that much. Even if I were a gyrocopter fanatic, I'd just buy a kit and have it built. It's just way too much money for way too little capability.

"For that price why not buy a new Cessna and just drive a clunker to the airport?"

Because when you get to the other end, you're stuck with the "$100 burger" at some out-of-the-way rural airstrip, instead of being able to drive into town and go to the nice pub.

You'd have to be quite special for that to be worth $300k on a "toy" though…

time for an iconaircraft -- it's half the price and twice as cool.

The Pal-V One has two seats and a 160 kW flight certified gasoline engine, giving it a top speed of 180 km/h (112 mph) on land and in air, and a Maximum Takeoff Weight of 910 kg. Estimated unit price is around $300,000.

Where do I buy one?

Exactly my thoughts. Just imagine how this vehicle can cut down your commute. Luckily I have the best commute in the world right now (takes me 8 minutes on a motorcycle and 10 minutes in a car), but that won't necessarily always be the case. Some of my friends commute to the big city and it takes them over 1 hour. This Pal-V One would cut that down to 30 minutes, including takeoff/landing and putting on all that riding/flying gear!

That sounds kind of slow, for air travel.

Rotor craft are limited by a combination of needing the advancing rotor blade stay under mach1[1], and having the retreating blade still moving fast enough[2] still be able to create lift.

Flying much faster then 200kmh usually needs tricks like going to more than 2 blades, and exceeding 500knh (where the advancing blade needs to exceed mach1 if the retreating blade isn't moving backwards through the air) required very expensive blades (and becomes outrageously noisy)

[1] 'cause breaking the sound barrier along parts but not all of the advancing blade makes things complicated and expensive. [2] and keep in mind this is backwards, relative to the body of the helicopter.autogyro

It is, but you can also fly line-of-sight for the part of your journey that is between airports, shortening the distance, instead of following roads.

I think it's actually about the same speed as a Cessna or something similar flies, which is pretty impressive if you ask me.

Test flight: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgHSaNtAMjs

Cool folding prop (but scary - if it doesn't unfold properly, it could make quite a mess).

FWIIW, it is really a flying motorcycle, not a flying car. Three wheeled vehicles (in the USA) are licensed as motorcycles and have hugely lower regulatory (especially safety) requirements.

> Cool folding prop (but scary - if it doesn't unfold properly, it could make quite a mess).

Hard to tell from the video alone, but the rotor look just like my RC helicopter's: blades attached to the hub by one gudgeon pin each. If that's the case, centrifugal force alone is enough to align them perfectly †; no solenoid nor manual action needed ever. If that's the case, there's virtually no way those could fail, except for total disintegration. Pretty standard construction for small, two-bladed helis.

Way cooler is that they can get away without flybar -- perhaps autogyros don't ever need one?

† there's some forward-backward play of the blade as it changes attack angle and relative airspeed during rotation, but that's another matter.

As a kid In the early 90s I remember reading Scholastic Magazine at school and reading that flying cars would be available by 1995. I was ecstatic. :-|

Nice. I like how they design it to fit in a regular garage. Wonder what's the range and what kind of fuel it uses. Regular unlead 87?

A proximity warning radar to warn things nearby would be nice.

From here: http://pal-v.com/the-pal-v-one/specifications/

Flight specs: Range 350 - 500 km Max speed: 180 km/h Fuel economy: 36 l/h

This is 20 l/100 km at max speed (11.76 MPG), so not amazing but not much worse than an SUV (my car, which is average, gets 10 l/100km). Plus you're flying in a straight line which is worth a lot.

From the FAQ:

For more densely populated countries, in the future there will be a network of small airstrips near recreational areas along the highway could lead to a much denser infrastructure. The ministry of Traffic in the Netherlands has started testing this concept in anticipation of the arrival of PAL-Vs in traffic. See movie (Link to movie ministry tests PAL-V ports).

Wow, they really think that there will be enough people buying these to create a need for large numbers of airstrips? Crazy :).

There is some spin in that FAQ. Government is, of course, involved; this thing needs permission to become road- and airworthy. The (meanwhile ex; the video must be from before October 2010) minister of transport also said it could be an option in some markets, and he said that, if these things become used widely, municipailites would have to decide on building such airstrips. He did not say the government was researching that possibility, though. So, all it was was a polite way to say "interesting; we will see whether it will fly (sorry, could not think of a way to make this pun-free. 'will take off' was the alternative I could think of)

Seems a lot like the TerraFugia, albeit with very different style: http://www.terrafugia.com/

I know it was dumb, but I was half expecting to see something like cars from the Fifth Element after clicking the link.

I wouldnt call that a flying car, I would call that a car that can turn into a gyro/helicopter.

I've always thought a flying car should be simple not this thing and not the screaming Moller four-engined.

My idea was a van-like vehicle that was neutrally buoyant with bladders to control the buoyancy sort of a lifting-body dirigible with wheels

Then I see SkyCat it's huge but pretty much the idea I had.

I'm 0 for 2 this week for ideas, my subwoofer siren idea apparently has been made too.

Anyone have any idea how noisy it is?

Watch out for fender benders!

Forget fender benders. Your house is now in danger of drunk drivers.

Or high flyers.

I'd like to see a crash test of this "car". I'm not suicidal enough to drive it on a regular road.

In fact, at the $300,000 price you might as well get a lightweight plane ($20K would get you a decent one), and a really nice car for $280,000.

Since you can't legally take off and land on a road, there's no real difference.

While I understand your argument, that same logic would say riding a motorcycle is "suicidal". A point of view I hear a fair bit being an avid motorcycle rider, but one that indicates to me that the person holding it _really_ hasn't understood the risks (or rewards).

Or just combine both points of view http://hover-bike.com/

Riding a motorcycle is suicidal.

"Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists' risk of a fatal crash is 35 times greater than a passenger car."


If motorcycling is suicidal, then driving a car is murderous.

"...auto collisions are the leading cause of injury-related deaths, an estimated total of 1.2 million in 2004, or 25% of the total from all causes. Of those killed by autos, nearly two-thirds are pedestrians."


Yes, and people go to prison for vehicular homicides all the time. But keep in mind that not every fatal accident is considered a homicide - there are accidents, and there are many cases when the other side is responsible.

Which side of the accident would you rather be on?

> not every fatal accident is considered a homicide

Note that homicide merely means killing of a person (by another). It could be accidental.

ref: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/homicide

I'd rather be on the subway...

If riding a motorcycle is "suicidal", then driving a car is 1/35th as "suicidal".

Yes, but the GP doesn't it that way because humans tend to under-evaluate low probability events. Forgot the name of the theory. Basically, low (so until 10% probability) are taken by most humans as "0%". I agree with your statement fully, to make that clear.

Too bad it doesn't work the same for lotteries

Good point!! A quick search brings some interesting statement - basically that is the only perceived way out of poverty for many people [1]. Also the risk seems really low, because it is "rooted" in your usual budget, like cigarettes, so you don't really see the real cost. Due to the media and the advertising, the perceived chance of gain may also be increased.

[1] http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-07/cmu-wpa072408...

the quoted figure is for motorcycling under all conditions. When you remove obvious stupid crap like riding undert he influence, riding without having had any formal instruction, and speeding, you get a figure closer to 4x as likely.

I would like to see an example of an airworthy plane for $20k that has any range (250 miles seems bare minimum). Also, it should cost less than $15k for it's next annual inspection and repair...

Being able to fly somewhere and then drive on, without having to rent a car, is a real difference.

Greater availability of car-sharing services like Zipcar at general aviation airports would eliminate much of the need for roadable airplanes.

True, but the roadable airplane is still more convenient, especially if you have a lot of luggage. It's a luxury item, obviously, but there are people who don't want any hassle, and can afford not to have it.

Park your car at the airport. You will have to land there anyway.

So own two cars, one at each airport? Or more than two, if you want to fly between more than two places?

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