What started off as nothing more than a white paper written by NASA engineer Mark Moore, the future of flying cars looks closer than its ever been before. In October of last year, ride-sharing company Uber laid out a paper of their own detailing an air-based transportation system known as Uber Elevate. Fast forward to around 24 hours ago, the company is now putting action into their words – by hiring Mark Moore, no less!
By taking advantage of the recent advancements in drone technology, Uber finds itself in a momentous time in history where flying cars are finally feasible. Flying cars aren’t something new to us here at Serious Wonder. In fact, a couple of years ago, we’d reported on an ambitious project by Terrafugia in developing self-flying cars in inspiration of drones. A year later, the company received a green light from the FAA to begin test flight operations.
Today, Uber is now wishing to take a crack at it. By using what is being dubbed as VTOL aircrafts (Vertical Take-off and Landing), the company is aiming to provide on-demand aviation. Developed using advanced drone technology, these small, electric aircrafts will provide rapid and reliable transportation between suburbs and cities. To ensure success, these aircrafts will also require infrastructure support with an urban VTOL network. This would consist of distributed networks of “vertiports” and “vertistops.”
When do they envision this project of theirs hitting the open sky? Ten years from now!
Ten years from now, flying cars could very well become the new norm. While we remain cautiously optimistic about this prediction, we wish to heavily emphasize on the cautious part. Flying cars have been a prominent futurist prediction for many decades now and yet it’s maintained its status as being one of the biggest prediction flops in history. Mind you, they weren’t entirely wrong. We’ve had flying cars since 2013 when the Aeromobil first took flight, but it certainly didn’t acquire the appeal (let alone aesthetic) most advocates were hoping for.
But again, we remain optimistic, despite what the naysayers believe. If Uber succeeds, on-demand aviation will become the next great transportation system of the 21st century. It’ll start off as a luxury item, driven only by the wealthy and well-connected. With time, however – especially when equipped as a public utility service – flying cars will be used by all passengers, rich or poor.
“Imagine traveling from San Francisco’s Marina to work in downtown San Jose—a drive that would normally occupy the better part of two hours—in only 15 minutes. What if you could save nearly four hours round-trip between São Paulo’s city center and the suburbs in Campinas? Or imagine reducing your 90-plus minute stop-and-go commute from Gurgaon to your office in central New Delhi to a mere six minutes.”
In 1962, the hit sci-fi cartoon series The Jetsons made its debut. The premise of the show was a retro-futurist envisioning of what the year 2062 might look like for a then-typical middle-class family. In this show, flying cars are as normal as smartphones are today. They’re cheap and readily available in various different assortments. To this day, The Jetsons continue to inspire newer generations in building a peaceful, positive future.
We still have over 40 years to go until we reach 2062, but in some cases, we’ve already achieved some of the tech. the show had revealed, such as smartwatches. Which then raises the question: since we’re aiming for flying cars by 2027, what might the future 40-50 years from now entail in terms of transportation? It’s really difficult to say, given the exponential pace of technological change. What we can say is to not become so fixated on what current tech. provides – or even what tech. might provide a decade from now. They’ll serve only as distractions for what the future of transportation will truly be.
As the old saying goes, reality is almost always stranger than fiction!