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The dream of flying cars will always be just that, a dream

The Jetsons had it wrong.

the jetsons flying cars
Image: Hanna-Barbera Productions

One of the most common gripes about the future, which is apparently upon us (the future is now), is one that encapsulates our blinding and irrational desire for flying vehicles as if this current population of blistering morons could handle the responsibility and decision making involved in piloting a flying vehicle.

This is not the future we imagined. The flying cars are not here. Frankly, I’m a bit relieved. Flying cars would not only be a terrible addition to an already terrible swath of humanity currently propagating the planet, but would be an absolute luxury item for at least the first half-century they exist. Disagree with that statement? When was the last time you rode a helicopter to get to work? Or slid into the comfort of a leather seat on a private plane? Flying cars will not immediately be the grimy reality as presented to us in the world of movies such as The Fifth Element.

There have been some flying vehicles touted as flying cars. Every year there seems to be some jetpack or vertical takeoff thing that the blogs get excited about and call a flying car. But you know these are not flying cars. The flying cars we’re imagining have been fed to us by science fiction for decades. We see a DeLorean in the sky, we see a taxi cab able to defy gravity. We’re imagining a Buick zipping over our heads as dad heads off to work. That’s what we think of when we think of flying cars, and while these concepts might get us there, they are simply tests of the technology needed.

Once that technology reaches a point where it can be incorporated into a vehicle representative of our expectations, it will become a product for the rich. With that in mind, it’s not hard to imagine that the first flying cars for consumer use will come to us from Apple. Apple is still working on creating its electric car, now partnering with Hyundai for production. That’s the first step. The second is overcoming the production costs, but I’m confident Apple has the coin for that, even if it gets soaked on screen repair.

As companies move forward with flying car concepts, they are seemingly unaware of the public’s expectation of what a flying car is supposed to be

gm flying car at ces 2021
Image: GM

This year at virtual CES, GM unveiled a concept of a VTOL aircraft. This is not a flying car. Yet, as is often the case at CES, there is going to be some manufacturer claiming it has finally realized a flying something.

It should be noted that the concept GM showed off was nothing more than that, a CAD demo of something that might exist someday. It was a personal helicopter, something of a golf cart for the sky, and surely aimed at a demographic that complains about their Maserati not being roomy enough.

One innovation that will assist in the future development of flying cars is battery recharge time. Right now, companies are working on batteries that charge in under five minutes, holding a charge longer and not requiring standing around while your electric vehicle recharges. This technology will be key to flying vehicles, as much so as having a safety deposit box filled with blood diamonds.

Flying cars will someday be a reality, but they will likely not be what we pictured them to be all those years prior. They will be personal VTOL-style transportation devices priced and designed for the super-rich. They will be yet another thing that widens the divide between the ultra-rich and the serfs.

The Center For American Progress has about 60 sociopolitical reasons why flying cars are a bad idea, as the idea stands now. While one could argue that every innovation has detractors, the reality of rushing into another technology for the benefit of the super-rich is detrimental to society at-large.

We are so distracted by conceptual technology innovations in this country, and we’ve been asking every year where the flying cars are. How about where is the fully sustainable energy grid? Where is the high-speed rail system? Those things don’t benefit the rich, ruling class, so those things don’t exist, but they should. There is no reason companies like Apple couldn’t invest in creating high-speed rail systems. Elon overshot with the Hyperloop (as common with rich innovators, a simple high-speed train would have sufficed), so we’re still waiting for our train.

We’re in a 70-year holding pattern for flying cars, waiting for something to exist that we won’t have access to use. Why do we persist in holding this dream above water when none of us will live to see a truly consumer-focused flying car? Because it offers escape. Guess what? You can’t escape. You’re stuck here with the rest of us.

Have any thoughts on this? Do you agree? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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