We've all seen them in the movies like Back to the Future and The Fifth Element. A highway in the sky, filled with flying cars whipping around the high rise city blocks, dropping off pizza and picking up passengers. The future of the automotive industry was truly captivating. No more traffic jams, just lift yourself up another level and pray that the engine doesn't stop mid flight.
Some sci-fi writers predicted this leap of innovation earlier than others. some as early as 2001, so where's my flying car?
Of course none of us are really expecting a flying car anytime soon although companies like Uber and Tesla do have projects waiting in the wings. Uber hopes to be moving people in drone taxis sometime next year while Tesla, as with all it's big launches, is keeping it's plans very much under wraps.
The massive leaps in autonomized technology, battery capacity for electric vehicles, and processing software is very impressive, rendering the use of both petrol and drivers obsolete. Well not really.
The technology for these flying machines is definitely maturing and if it was down to just tech and money, you could order your very own flying machine today.
The problem comes down to infrastructure. Even if you already own a flying car, if you can get a registration plate for road use you will also have to register your vehicle as a plane. Oh yeah and you will need a full pilot's licence which will cost you $7000 for light aircraft or £10000 for a private pilot licence if you want to take a passenger. Even then, I cant imagine any air-traffic control department giving you permission to whizz around your local city centre. We don't have sky lanes in London yet. Uber are finding obtaining permission to try out their flying taxis extremely difficult.
Uber and Google also found it very difficult to get permission to test Automated vehicles on real roads, even when data suggested the cars were safer than human drivers in normal conditions. We are now starting to see true automated cars in the real world and many see these as the future of the humble automobile. But automation is so last decade. And electric vehicles have been around for a lot longer than you might think.
The milk float was a common sight on British roads in the 60's 70's and 80's and was battery powered as to not wake the residents of sleepy suburbs. But the dawn of this electric vehicle revolution began way back in the 1930's.
Battery power output and storage capacity have come a long way since then and people are swapping their old gas guzzlers for clean quiet electric vehicles. But with demand for these going up, Governments are struggling to keep up. The tech is moving much faster than infrastructure and legislation can. More charging points, super fast ones at that, are desperately needed if our towns and cities want to keep up with the demand.
One of of the most exciting developments for me has to be the electric motor cycle. The divide between bicycle and motorbike are becoming increasingly blurred and I cannot wait until I can get my hands on a high end super scooter. Riding a bike is the closest I have ever come to the feeling of actually flying.
It will ultimately be down to us to decide where we will put our money and faith in the future of travel and world governments are going to struggle to keep up as legislation is already generations behind technical development.
I was disappointed, coming out of lockdown, to see petrol powered vehicles still dominating the roads and no revolution towards electric appears to be happening just yet. We may not be up and flying just yet but look out. A brave new world may be just around the corner.