We’ve been reporting on the status of driverless cars for over 3 years.  Now there is yet another method for moving around our world that is coming in the next two to three years. 

As our roads get more crowded and driving from one spot to another takes increasingly more time, inventors and technical gurus are looking at the skies for more travel space.

Some of us of a certain age can remember the Jetsons and their flying car.  After decades of promises, it looks like flying cars are finally becoming real.  A Dutch-made mash-up of automobile and helicopter, called a PAL-V, made a splashy debut at the Geneva Auto Show.

Mark Jennings Bates, the North American representative for PAL-V, says his company has about 70 orders globally so far. "So, 2020, our first clients will get their aircraft."  And the Pal-V could be coming to America the year after that.

Here are the PAL-V facts

  • It takes just minutes to change from car to plane.
  • The cost: $400,000 to $600,000.
  • Owners need training in a gyrocopter, and a license to fly.
  • The cars will need runways, albeit very short runways – about 300 feet long to get airborne.

Leaders in the Fray

But some of the biggest aerospace companies are developing flying vehicles that need no runway – and no driver. Boeing has test-flown one and so has Airbus.

flying-cars-bell-nexus-620Bell Helicopters' air taxi is called the Nexus, designed to take off and land in the middle of a city. Michael Thacker helped design it to circumvent city traffic: 

Thacker says the Nexus could be flying by 2025. Rotors lift it off the ground vertically like a helicopter, and then tilt, to fly horizontally like a plane. When it's time to land, the blades tilt back, and the Nexus settles to the ground.

Of course, before anyone gets on board, all these flying taxis need space, like helipads, to take off and land. And developers on the ground have started paying attention to developments in the air. An ultra-luxurious condo building under construction in Miami advertises that its rooftop is ready to accept flying cars.

The FAA still must figure out how to regulate (and separate) all this new air traffic. Developers are planning on existing satellite-based technology to be sophisticated enough to keep flying taxis and flying cars from flying into each other.

While flying cars capture the imagination, flying around like the Jetsons is a lot to take in.  Could flying driverless cars be next?

Dean and Draper

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Sources: CBS News, Boeing, Bell Flight, Auto Gyro USA