Tuesday, July 5, 2011

We Will Soon Drive Flying Cars: New Developments

The Terrafugia flying car has been granted road-safety exemptions. Here is an article from the Register about it. From the story:
Following representations by Terrafugia to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it has been agreed that production Transitions can use "tires that are appropriately rated for highway speeds and the vehicle weight". They will also be allowed to substitute lightweight polycarbonate windows for traditional automotive safety glass, which is not only heavy but could shatter in such a way as to obscure a pilot's vision in an airborne bird-strike situation.

It had been hoped that Transitions would be delivered from 2009, but Terrafugia has been dogged by delays. A proof-of-concept vehicle did fly in 2009 (pictured) but test results were evidently not all that one might wish as a major redesign followed. New test machines are now being built, and the company has stated that production might commence this year.

Even if all goes to plan, the future of the Transition may not be as rosy as it once seemed. Despite a helpful weight exemption from the aerial feds, according to the new spec a fully-fuelled Transition will be able to lift only 330lb of passengers and payload: it can't get airborne carrying two normal American men. Also the price has ballooned from $148k to $250k.

Only rich, abnormal American men will fly the things, but a milestone nonetheless.
(h/t David Levinson)

In other developments, New Scientist reports on a project sponsored by the European Commission called MyCopter that aims to develop "flocking algorithms" that will allow personal copters (and flying cars) to adapt to each other and not crash. A swarm of copters will learn and follow traffic rules, essentially creating a road network in the sky. Exciting stuff.
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