posted at 5:01 pm on April 25, 2017 by John Sexton
We’ve been promised flying cars since the Jetsons but despite the creation over the last several decades of personal computers, the internet, and cellular phones the flying cars have never seemed to get any closer to reality. Today CNN reports Uber is hoping that will change in the next five years:
The tech company announced Tuesday at its Elevate Summit that it has struck partnerships with the cities of Dallas and Dubai to demonstrate a network of flying cars by 2020. Uber also announced a handful of partnerships with aviation companies to develop and deliver a flying car.
Uber believes that investing in flying cars is essential to protecting its business, and envisions full-scale operations of a flying car network launching in 2023.
Uber’s plan isn’t to develop the flying cars themselves but to offer incentives to private companies to work out the details. If that sounds over-optimistic, well…Wired reports that some experts think this could really happen by 2020:
And here’s the crazy part: Uber could make it happen. “I think 2020 is realistic for a vehicle that is not replacing an airplane but replacing a car,” says Richard Pat Anderson, director of the Flight Research Center at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. A purely electric aircraft might remain elusive, but a serial hybrid setup—where the aircraft carries a fuel-burning turbine to keep the juice flowing, much like the Chevrolet Volt—could work…
Uber has signed deals with five companies that are developing electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft: Pentagon-backed Aurora Flight Sciences, electric plane maker Pipistrel, Bell Helicopter, Embraer, and small plane maker Mooney. If they bow out or fail to deliver, others can take their place.
There are in fact a number of companies already racing to fill what they believe is a huge untapped market. Today, Aurora Flight Sciences released this video of the system it envisions as well as a scale model of its flying car:
And though it was not one of the five companies selected by Uber, Germany firm Lillium posted video of the first flight test for its flying car concept earlier this week:
If all of this sounds promising, it should. We may really be getting close to that moment when flying cars, or something like them, are available to a large number of people for making shorter trips that traditional airplanes. But there is a hitch. As this Wired video story from last October points out, the technology is racing ahead of the regulatory structures. In the end it’s the probably going to be the government that is the last hurdle to the flying car.