Volvo's Parent Company Wants Flying Cars to Be Commonplace by 2020

Tuesday, 14 November 2017 - 8:32PM
Tuesday, 14 November 2017 - 8:32PM
Volvo's Parent Company Wants Flying Cars to Be Commonplace by 2020
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If you've been dreaming of a flying car since you were a child, have patience - there may not be long to wait before flying cars become an ordinary part of everyday life around the world.

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, which owns both Volvo and Lotus, has just finalized its purchase of Terrafugia, a company that specializes in airborne automobiles. With this purchase comes the promise of increased funding and development resources, as Terrafugia pushes to introduce flying cars to commercial markets by 2019, with a wider rollout beginning in 2020.

While there are plenty of sky taxis and autonomous flying machines that are in development around the world at the moment, it has to be said that these vehicles rarely look like actual cars - instead, the most common design seems to be based off the idea of a giant toy helicopter.

Not so for Terrafugia, whose flying cars look like cars and are also entirely roadworthy, converting in an instant as large wings fold out to allow passengers to soar through the sky.

The first car to his the market will be the Transition, thus named because of its ability to switch effortlessly from a land journey to full on flight. This car will be the first to hit the market, taking off in 2019 - although, in fairness, you're probably going to want to wait a year before purchase. The Transition has several drawbacks that have been fixed in the company's other work-in-progress, not least the fact that it needs a solid, lengthy runway in order to get into the air.

In their TF-X model, on the other hand, where you're going, you don't need roads. Terrafugia's far more advanced prototype features vertical takeoff, propellers that fold away from airborne cruising, and an efficient electric engine that's capable of traveling at 200mph through the skies.

The car, which will be on sale from 2020 provided its development goes smoothly, is also completely autonomated once you get into the air, so that all you need to do it set a destination, and the car will do the rest.

That said, the TF-X still seems to be a long way from completion at present, as the fully computer generated product video shows off. It's probably best not to get too excited about this car until it's actually closer to being sky-worthy, although, thanks to the combined power of Volvo and Lexus now behind Terrafugia, the chance of this planned car actually reaching the market with the promised features seems more likely.

For those who aren't in a position to buy a brand new flying car in a few years, one question looms biggest on the horizon: what's the used flying car market going to be like?

After all, traveling the skies is fine if you can afford a brand new flying car, but if you're forced to buy one with a few miles on the clock, the idea of trusting your safety to an older model may feel a bit more worrying. No matter how safe these cars might be, accidents, breakdowns, and other mishaps will still occur, and nobody wants to be dangling in the air if and when things go wrong.

The good news is that Terrafugia is hard at work trying to find the perfect safety solution to the challenge of letting a robot flying car drive passengers through the sky without crashing into a nearby tree. Similarly, all the other companies that are looking to grab a piece of the flying car pie are also hoping to find ways to make this experience safe - dead customers don't tend to make a company much money.

While it's worth being cautious about Terrafugia's works in progress, we are moving towards a world in which flying cars are a common sight, and once we reach that point, an awful lot of childhood fantasies are about to come true.
Science News