Flying Cars Coming Soon: Terrafugia Says Its First Vehicle Will Be Available in 2015 [VIDEO]
Terrafugia says they will have a flying car in the skies in just two years. The Massachusetts-based company is developing two "roadable aircrafts": the Transition, an airplane with fold-up wings which can be driven to the airport, and the TF-X, a consumer-focused "flying car for all of us," which can vertically take off and land in your driveway.
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"The potential benefit to humanity of a practical flying car is tremendous," says Terrafugia CEO Carl Dietrich. "The global impact of widely distributed, practical, personal airborne transportation has been estimated by the non-profit CAFE Foundation at approximately $800 billion/year. NASA has estimated it at $1 trillion/year. I believe it is impossible to quantify the benefit to humanity."
The Transition, which will be the first commercially available flying car from Terrafugia, is closer to a novel airplane than a flying car. The Transition is designed to be kept in your garage, but must be driven to an airport for takeoff (and must land at an airport too). The Transition is classified as a Light Sport Aircraft and requires a sport pilot certificate, so it isn't a flying car you'd take to the mall. It's for pilots, not for drivers, and at a cost of $279,000 it obviously isn't going to be the flying car for every driveway.
The Terrafugia vehicle that is closer to the sci-fi conception of the flying car is the TF-X, which is only in the concept phase. The TF-X will be a vertical take-off and landing vehicle, which means that like a helicopter, the TF-X will be able to take flight without a runway. Unlike the Transition, the TF-X is a more of a flying car for your a driver (as opposed to a pilot). Terrafugia says the TF-X will be dead simple to operate: it will take an operator only five hours to learn how to control it, and most of the TF-X's operation will be performed by autopilot. As with an autonomous car, the operator of the TF-X can sit back as the vehicle drives itself (with manual override controls). Tell the TF-X where you want to go, and it will take you there, taking into account variables like weather, other aircraft in the sky and protected airspace.
If the idea of a flying car seems a little scary or unsafe, Terrafugia says there will be a number of features in place to calm fears. For instsnace, if the TF-X's 500-mile battery gets low, the flying car will land itself at the nearest safe landing area, the safety of which the operator can verify or override. And in the nightmare scenario for any aircraft -- the power completely shuts down while in flight -- the TF-X uses a parachute to land.
"There are certainly failsafe modes on the computer side, but what happens when everything goes blank on you?" Deietrich said in an interview with Reuters. "In that situation, basically the operator does need to be trained in one thing: pull a handle. And that handle actually deploys a parachute."
If the TF-X flying car sounds too good to be true, it might be: the flying car is still very much in the concept phase. Terrafugia estimates that development will take eight to 12 years. There's also the question of price, which Terrafugia says is too early to pinpoint. While they say it "will be priced as low as possible," they estimate it will have a price point similar to "very high-end luxury cars."
Start saving up now, kids.
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