By Dr Robert Hickson
A small German-based company, Lilium, has announced that they have successfully tested an electric “flying car”. A ducted fan mini-plane really.
Others are also looking at developing small air-borne taxis. But Lilium is the first to have a working prototype.
Initially piloted, but Lilium hopes it can become autonomous and able to be summoned using a smart phone. And eventually cheap enough so most can use one.
My first thought was, is this a hoax? But it looks legitimate. The CEO, Daniel Wiegand, has been talking about this for several years, and one of the investors was a co-founder of Skype.
The most surprising thing for me is the speed with which they have got to prototype stage. The concept was, according to their website, developed only in 2013.
New Zealand’s own Martin Jetpack is based on 35 years of R&D. Such is the speed of development in the electric and transportation fields now.
Being based in Europe, Lilium seems to have attracted little attention in, or investment from, the US. Although their marketing is US centred.
For a modest fee could many of us soon be able to flit across Cook Strait from Wellington for a weekend in Marlborough or Nelson, or from Auckland to Waiheke, or from Queenstown to Treble Cone?
Unlikely. The company indicates that 2025 will be the earliest that they will have it in operation.
Elon Musk was already unpositive about flying cars before this announcement. He thinks it will be safer getting to Mars (and hopefully back) than having many vehicles zipping by just overhead. He makes a good point. And he hasn’t factored in all the drones that may be, legally or otherwise, in the air too.
Flying cars feed a futuristic fantasy, and I’d love to fly in one, but getting from A to B more quickly isn’t the most challenging problem we face.
Update: A Slovakian company AeroMobil has also just announced that they hope to have a real flying car, that you can drive on the road and fly in the air, available for purchase in about three years. For $1 million.
Update 2: The NY Times has a piece on Silicon Valley’s flying car initiatives. It notes regulatory work underway for a new air traffic control system to take account of drones and other flying vehicles. But the best line is the last:
“Silicon Valley is full of very smart people, but they don’t always get the laws of physics,” he said. “Gravity is a formidable adversary.”
Ariadne is the blog of Dr Robert Hickson, a man fascinated with foresighting and future scanning. You’ll find him blogging about cutting edge technology, innovation, science and risk.
Featured image: copyright Hanna-Barbera