It’s a car! It’s a plane! No, it’s Supercar! Actually, the flying car – or driving plane, depending on how you look at it – is called the TF-X. It’s made by a company called Terrafugia, based in Massachusetts and is capable of becoming airborne vertically, like a helicopter, and flying a distance of up to 500 miles. The company says its combo car/plane could be available to consumers anywhere from eight to twelve years. Their website boasts, “TF-X™ is designed to bring personal aviation to the world.”
Furthermore, Terrafugia points out that traditional, non-flying cars are ‘slow and dangerous’, resulting in the deaths of more than a million people annually, worldwide. Additionally, commuters waste an average of 20 hours monthly stuck in gridlocked traffic. “We need the safety of commercial aviation, the convenience and flexibility of a car, and the freedom of the open sky,” they say.
The idea of flying cars has been in the imagination of drivers since before George Jetson flew his space-aged airborne vehicle in the cartoon series of the 1960s. After all, what could be better than rising vertically into the air when traffic becomes congested and soaring over the gridlock to your destination? If the TF-X becomes a reality for consumers, you’ll be able to do just that, albeit for the costly sum of about $150,000.
The TF-X is a hybrid electric vehicle that seats four people. It’s fully automated, which means that it essentially drives and flies itself via a complex set of sensors and computers. Thus, theoretically anyway, you won’t need a pilot’s license to fly the vehicle. Just input your destination’s coordinates in much the same way you use your vehicle’s GPS, and it figures out how to get you there, while you sit back and enjoy the ride. The time required to learn how to operate the vehicle is around five hours, says the company.
What crosses the mind of any traveler is a mid-flight emergency that the TF-X is forced to handle. Not a problem, say the designers, because it will send out an emergency signal and find the closest spot to land safely.
While the TF-X isn’t currently on the market, the company does have what it calls the Transition flying car, which is available for test flights and will be on the market within the next two years. You’ll need to plunk down roughly $300,000 and have a pilot’s license to fly the Transition.
According to Terrafugia’s website, “The Transition® can fly in and out of over 5,000 public airports in the U.S. and is legal to drive on public roads and highways. It is the only light aircraft designed to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and it is also equipped with a full-vehicle parachute for additional safety.”
While the idea of flying a combination plane/car that’s equipped with a parachute probably doesn’t appeal to any but the most adventurous sort, there’s no doubt that flying cars are in the near future for America’s roads and airspace. And, when gridlocked drivers watch the car in the next lane rise up into the air and zoom off into the distance, there’s no doubt they’ll want one, too. The only question is whether they’ll be able to afford one.
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