Flying Cars — Fiction or Near Future?

Science fiction literature and science fiction movies often miss out on trends. While they are often applauded for predicting future social paradigms, novels from past years failed to predict the Internet, and many of us use it on a daily basis. Science fiction novels also failed to predict mobile phones, yet most of us regularly use them. Other past ideas are coming to fruition; self-driving cars are being developed rapidly, and most experts expect them to be available at some point in the near future. Some ideas, however, have no prototypes, and many are wondering when we are going to get flying cars.

* Flying cars are a science fiction staple 

Science fiction deals with themes of freedom and restriction; flying cars are the ultimate expression of freedom. When roads are extended vertically, traffic jams are eliminated. Further, flying cars are the ultimate conceptual combination of two inventions that revolutionized the 20th century: the car and the airplane. With this in mind, it seems only natural that flying cars seemed to be an inevitable part of the future.

* Why do we not have flying cars? Will we ever have them? 

Cars work by spinning wheels on a hard surface to move; airplanes use wings to convert forward motion to lift. There is no overlap between these two technologies, and there seems to be no way to easily combine these two fundamentally different vehicles. While it is impossible to predict future revolutionary inventions, no current technology seems like it will lead to flying cars.

* Will we have a reasonable replacement?

Some argue that we already have a functional equivalent to flying cars. Small airplanes allow owners to appreciate some of the benefits promised from flying cars. Some are creating small airplanes with retractable wings and a car engine to create a vehicle that can travel both in the sky and on the road. There may be further advances that improve on these vehicles, but most agree that they do not resemble the image of flying cars as we have come to understand them based on science fiction novels and movies.

It is important, however, to appreciate current technology. While we do not have flying cars, we can take flying lessons, buy hip aviator glasses from a pilot store and fly personal airplanes anywhere we want to go, looking just as cool as Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element.

Cars are much better than what we had in the middle of the 20th century, and self-driving cars are due at some point soon. Perhaps these transportation advances combined with Internet-enabled smart phones are even better than flying cars as they were previously envisioned.

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