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This is the future - so where's my flying car?

by Katy Scott
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Where is my flying car?
By: Katy SCOTT

Published: 09/11/2007

Where is my late-model flying sedan with air-con, mp3 player, airbags and a 3-year warranty?
This is not 1901, we all own pocket-sized remote voice receiver/transmitters.
The glittering, futuristic year of 2000 was done and dusted over seven years ago, and frankly, the technology of that millennium turn is now outdated and, well, boring.

The future is now – so where is my flying car?

In 1940, Henry Ford said: "Mark my word: a combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come."

And according to Back to the Future Part II, we won't have to wait long. In the film when Doc Brown picked up Marty McFly from the year 1985 and took them both into 2015, Jaws 19 had just been directed by Steven Spielberg's son, living rooms sported roll-up TV screens, hover-boards were a toy-box staples, and everyone flew – that's right - flying cars.

3rd Degree asked science fiction writer Cory Doctorow for his future predictions on flying cars, but found out that maybe there's a reason the books and movies get it wrong.

"I'm of the opinion that science fiction writers suck at predicting the future," said Mr Doctorow. "We mostly go around describing the present in futuristic clothes - (such as science fiction writers) Mary Shelley, Bill Gibson, and many others."

Since 1985, some of the other predictions displayed in Back to the Future films have come true, such as small laserdiscs and holidays to Vietnam. Right now however, no one can jump into their Holden Air-odores or Ford Flycons and jet off to their mate's place for some pizza, beer and a 38-hour Jaws marathon.

But what about ten years from now?

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is an international organisation that holds a forum during its annual gathering of aviation enthusiasts, EAA Airventure, where members discuss and review current projects to create a practical flying car. The Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE), another world-wide organisation, has similar meetings at regular conferences.

There are also several prototypes being developed by different companies, focusing on two styles: The integrated, a car with all the flying necessities built-in, while the modular model allows people to attach and detach the flying pieces.

The prototypes consist of everything from compact helicopter-like vessels to small aircraft to the LaBiche Aerospace FSC-1, a sports car that has wings and other necessary flying apparatus that slide out of the side panels at the push of a button. Although it's not officially on the market yet, the FSC-1 can be pre-ordered in the US, although US law requires an airport and a pilot's licence to actually get the car off the ground.

The hope of many flying-car development companies is that one day, people will be able to walk out their front doors, jump into their cars, and either drive or fly off. But this idea presents even more problems, with the idea of flying bumpercars at the Royal Show coming to mind.

Helicopter expert and University of New South Wales lecturer Matt Garratt said if there was as much traffic in the air as there is on the ground, we’d have to have computers to control the cars, and use signs and traffic lights.

"You’re not just looking out for people in front of you, but also above and below," he said. "How do you not run into each other?"

Neighbourhood noise, safety of people on the ground and the possibility of drunk flyers are other problems to face if everyone becomes airborne, not to mention the potential damage to the environment that high-powered craft could cause.

"We’ve got global warming now, so if you’ve got tonnes of carbon going into the air, what do we do about that?" Mr Garratt said.

Mr Garratt said there would need to be a quantum change in technology to create the flying cars that we see in movies.

"We'd need some sort of anti-gravity," he said. "I don’t think with the current technology we could do that."

So it looks rather unlikely we'll be flying our own personal cars around in 2015, like Back to the Future Part II suggested we would. There's no word on how Jaws 19 is progressing either.

But with all the flying-car prototypes being developed, the vast groups of the aviation-minded meeting up, and the rest of us doing our bit by putting on the pressure and wingeing about the flying car-sized empty spaces in our garages, one day we might be able to jump into our Toyota Aircruisers and fly off to pick up the kids from soccer. Henry Ford would be proud.