Think of sci-fi cartoons, and The Jetsons spring to mind. While some of the contraptions, like “pocket transmitters,” smartwatches and videophones have been with us for a while, the promise of personal flying cars hasn’t quite arrived.
But it might. Soon.
Toyota filed a patent for a “shape-morphing fuselage for an aerocar.” The filing shows a vehicle with adjustable body panels that hide wings and a propulsion system that extends off the back bumper. The shape-shifting design increases visibility when the vehicle is in driving mode, not to mention makes parking easier.
According to Toyota’s filing, flying cars “provide operators with freedom, comfort and the ability to arrive quickly to a destination as mobility becomes three dimensional, yet remains private and personal.”
Toyota isn’t the only one working on personal flying cars. But it does signal the first time a major carmaker took the concept of flying cars seriously.
Besides ushering in an era of personalized air travel, flying vehicles have the capacity to solve for both congested streets and cramped cockpits. About a dozen companies globally are trying to make personal cars take flight.
Personal Flying Cars – Larry Page’s Quest
Among them is Zee.Aero, a company that’s personally funded by Google co-founder Larry Page. The company operates largely in secrecy since it launched in 2010. Zee.Aero’s one-page website provides little information about the company, but does show active hiring. A look at patent filings, however, revels work on a “personal aircraft” that takes off and lands vertically. Drawings show the wheels of its landing gear to be street-worthy.
According to a recent Bloomberg article, Zee.Aero currently conducts test flights of its vehicles in the Silicon Valley area. Page is also invested in a Kitty Hawk, another company building flying car prototypes.
Perhaps the closest thing out there right now, though, is a version of the flying car from Dutch company PAL-V. Think of it as a gyrocopter that turns into a 3-wheel road vehicle. The flying three-wheeler can reach speeds of 112 miles when airborne. Autocar reported that PAL-V’s first production run of 90 are on sale now, costing about $615,000 each.
Whether flying cars for consumer use are in our near-term future, it’s clear that there ‘s enough interest – and money – being invested to make the Jetson’s transport a reality.
Article written by MG Rhodes. Submitted 3/13/17
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