Flying self-driving cars might sound like something Marty McFly and Doc Brown would test drive in another Back to the Future sequel. According to Airbus Group, however, they’re due to be demonstrated by the end of 2017.
Don’t expect to get behind the wheel of one for at least a few years, though, as there would need to be regulations placed on such transportation that doesn’t yet exist. For now, the greatest obstacle lies in state laws, which don’t vary much when it comes to motor vehicles. Uber has already hit a legal obstacle due to their testing in San Francisco, for example.
The SF Department of Motor Vehicles ordered Uber to cease and desist from such tests due to no driver being in the vehicle and the lack of a permit for such tests. Uber initially responded by saying there is indeed a person in the vehicle whose job is to take over when the car isn’t working correctly. In the end, Uber stopped the tests and is likely in the process of applying for the necessary permit.
Airbus could hit similar obstacles, not only with motor vehicle laws but also with air traffic regulations. There would need to be limits on the height these cars would be allowed to operate, possibly requiring an aircraft standard altitude meter on the dashboard. This would prevent possible collisions with mass transit aircraft, but it could eventually take accidents that occur on the ground and make them more dangerous.
Another potential obstacle lies in the oil industry. They would stand to go out of business if green technology takes over and eliminates the majority of the need for crude oil and gasoline. Transportation today is still heavily dependent on crude oil, and many feel that it isn’t worth the money to let go of the standard combustion engine.
Such a revolution from oil-based engines to self-driving “green” engines would require almost a complete overhaul of consumer-level standards, according to Techspot, and people generally don’t like change. Human history reveals that we often fight change, but it could happen.
After all, we have mostly moved on from the horse and carriage standard of two hundred years ago.
Another major obstacle in the way of flying self-driving cars is the world’s electrical grid. The infrastructure has been crumbling for decades, and attempting to fix it could easily disrupt lives and lead to legal hassles. The drain on the electrical grid from likely millions of autonomous cars might be too much for what we have left. In order to prepare for such a massive drain, we would need to fix the world’s infrastructure and enable greater amounts of power to be used on the consumer level.
Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders is optimistic, though. At the Digital Life Design conference in Munich recently, he mentioned that urban transportation had gone underground, which was a feat all by itself, only 100 years ago. Technically, “underground” transportation started when the railroads were built through the Rocky Mountains.
At the conference, Enders revealed a rendering of his planned flying car, which will likely differ from the final product. It will support one person with eight rotors, allowing it to ascend and descend vertically, the first new type of flying transportation of its kind since the helicopter. The rendered image shows the rotors facing forward and extending below the skids, which possibly means that the parts holding the rotors will themselves rotate. Such a system could be tricky to turn in if helicopters are anything to go by, and carrying much of anything in it could be problematic.
Do you think we will see a one-person flying car by the end of 2017, or will the facts behind transportation eliminate the plan before it ever leaves the ground?
[Featured Image by Costazzurra/Shutterstock]