Reasons why we will never see flying cars: Home Land Security?

My wife and I were taking a little dinner cruise yesterday in the boat, we started as always coming out of the River into the Sound and headed South towards the best views of the Sunset. Some of the things we pass include a Submarine Base, Large Pharmeseutical Company, Submarine Manufacturer, and Nuclear Power Station.

I was philosophizing about future machines with Mrs.P and she said, “that’s the very reason I don’t think we will ever see flying cars…because of everything we just passed. All a terrorist would have to do is pack his car with explosives and ram into a nuke plant, or any such target that would have a big impact. With that much explosives it’s be Chernobyl…”

I thought that was a valid statement. But I countered with “Don’t you think in the future we will have anti-aircraft/flying car weaponry with ultra sophisticated radar systems, that operate totally on thier own?”

But I doubt that matters because the risk would outweigh the return. Right? Or do you think when someone invents a reliable flying car that runs on garbage, that it will just be OK by the gov’t?
Assuming someone invents something other than this flying car. What would the regulation theoretically be? I wonder?

Interesting question.

However, I do want to chime in on the concept of a Chernobyl-type incident arising from a flying car packed with explosives crashing into a nuclear power plant.

After 9/11, the Nuclear Energy Institute commissioned a study on just what would happen if a loaded 767-400 crashed into a power plant. Their results?

A SUV-sized vehicle, even if packed with explosives, wouldn’t have anywhere near the damage potential of a 767.

Of course, said kamikaze could just choose a softer target - hospitals, police stations, water treatment plants, et cetera. The risk is present, but most likely not to nuclear facilities.

I was also thinking the capitol building, Washington Monument et cetera…

It just seems too dangerous.

Not to mention privacy…You could go look at any hollywood film star’s house at any time. Land the car behind a fence…

Not to mention age. I bet the age to operate on would be 25. If it ever happened of course.

So many variables…

There would have to be zones where they could be utlized. Like Florida has full access but eastern Texas is totally off limits you’ll have to fly through Oklahoma…

People can’t seem to follow basic road rules in confined 2-D travel. You want to let them have another direction to crash into? :slight_smile:

Flying cars already exist, and have for many years. They are called light aircraft.

Assuming the OP means something that looks like the Moller Skycar, well, the manufacturer clearly states that they will be at least as expensive, and require as much operational training, as for a current light aircraft, and thus will be out of reach of more than a small percentage of the population. And despite the Moller company’s optimism about establishing a computer -controlled flight network to allow unlicenced operators to ride around in these things, I seriously doubt the FAA would ever allow autonomous operation of such vehicles without a proper pilot’s licence.

There has already been much discussion amongst security types over the possibility of terrorists crashing light planes, explosive-packed or otherwise, into nuclear plants or other facilities.
One response that has been employed is to close air space within a certain distance of sensitive facilities. Where I lived in Eastern PA, there was quite howl from local aviators because Limerick, one of the busier GA airports in the Philly region, was closed for an extended period post-9/11 because it was within ten miles of an operating nuclear power plant.

Someday, you must admit, small flying vehicles will become mainstream tranportation. It’s inevitable.

Part of this inevitable process will depend on the maturing of mankind from this pubescent civilization. We still fight wars, argue like fools, compete with cut-throat tenacity. Jesus, we still lick each other crotches for pleasure, a perfect example of how much like an animal man really is.

We’re not ready for flying cars. We won’t be ready for many many years. It’s just too dangerous for today’s world.

That won’t stop them though. Men are opportunists by nature. If we can, we will, just like human cloning. How can we resist the urge to develop such promising avenues? There will probably be abundant accidents and catastrophies when flying cars are introduced to the public, but we all know this. Developing new regulations and traffic systems that work safely is probably even more challenging than building the machines.

I’d bet that discovering a revolutionary new fueling system is the first step to a new era of personal transportation.

But of course, this is nothing new.

Reason why I believe flying cars don’t exist-

Think of the ammount of traffic accidents that occur in any given year, or simply break-downs of cars.
When your car breaks down, you can walk to where you’re going, or when you crash, you can simply stop.
What do you do when you’re 20’+ in the air?

Well if we can’t handle not licking each other’s crotches, you’d best take away our hairdryers, toothbrushes, kitchen knives, fire extinguishers, cars, hell, big sticks… all potentially lethal.

Make the world safe for us, criminalcatalog !

The security risk from a flying car is no greater than that from, say, a mortar, quite easily available to the determined terrorist.

Of course, Europe, which has so many things we don’t in the area of transport (ie. workable public transportation, driving tests that actually require one to operate a vehicle safely, etc.) could quite easily end up with flying cars while we’re still sitting behind old ladies on cellphones touching up their makeup in their gas-guzzling SUVs…

I doubt that it’s “inevitable”

Prove your assertion, please.

apart from the crotch-licking, what animals fight wars and argue like fools? This seems to prove that man is quite unlike animals.

I agree.

But, I’m puzzled as to why you’d choose to post an “I-hate-humans” diatribe in answer to the OP.

Personally, I remember reading about many attemps to make cars with wings and the critic who wrote once that the problem with flying cars was that they’re not good cars and not good airplanes.

But, suppose we fix the power problem and the controls become computor assisted enough that they’d be like driving cars. I then would assume that we’d also have the computing sophistication to monitor location and speed of a bunch of flying cars so that they could be warned or have an auto-pilot take over if they got to restricted airspace.

I have to agree with Grey. There are too many people who don’t seem to realize they need to look before they move left, right, backwards or forwards - we don’t want to be adding up and down to the equation too. Imagine the guy shaving on his way to work, or the woman putting on makeup. Now imagine this idiot has two extra directions to worry about as they scurry down the road. Forget about homeland security, human stupidity will keep flying cars off the market for a while I think.

I don’t hate humans, I just feel sad for them. Alot of people have zero desire to experience something new, as long as they are fed well and don’t have to work any harder than they already do. They forget the dreams they used to have and “settle” for a financially bottle-necked and spiritually-hogtied lifestyle. And in the U.S., this is the “average consumer”. But that is a different subject.

Or maybe I just wish I was living in a world with different priorities. Only a small percentage of people care about the space program. Many fail to see the incredibly lucrative potentials of modern scienctific research and would rather put their $ into more immediate, self-indulgent stimuli.

There are too many minds in today’s world that are not fully utilized for their dormant brilliance, due to the malnourished methods of our stagnant societies. For all we know some dude spraying weed killer in a cornfield could have the most incredible singing voice, something so magnificent and powerful it would shock the world, if only he would discover it. Or maybe he would find, if he were given the opportunity, that he can fly a jet plane with more precision than anyone ever could before, because he’s got a natural gift that came from nowhere. Because he’s content to kill weeds until he dies, we’ll never see what he’s really capable of, possibly what he would be great at.

It’s just an example. You know what I mean. One might justify his position by crediting fate or “the realistic nature of the world we’re in”. Maybe he should spray weeds until he dies. Perhaps my views are too utopean for the real world. So what. I believe in progression, and right now, the world seems like granny goin’ 15 in a 35.

Sorry to post off topic, but I was questioned.

You know, I always wonder why Dopers fixate on using flying cars for personal transport.

Obviously, the proper use of flying cars/vans would be ambulances.

Why doesn’t somebody see this? :confused:

Helicopter ambulances have great difficulty in operating in urban areas due to narrow streets, overhanging eaves, & power/phone lines. Flying cars would have these problems.

No, it’s not. In fact, I doubt it will ever happen, no matter how much we want them.

Flying cars are just a bad idea. They are horribly energy inefficient, because you need to expend energy to keep mass in the air, whereas on the ground, you just have to overcome rolling friction. They are space inefficient, because they can’t track narrow lanes like cars can. The atmosphere is a roiling soup of energy, and even computer-controlled airplanes need a LOT of space around them to avoid smacking into each other. They are also ridiculously unsafe, because when they crash they crash on top of things.

If you want a personal flying craft, you can have one today. Go get your pilot’s license. If you want something that costs the same as a car, and lets you take off from your driveway, forget it. Take that Moller Skycar - do you know how LOUD that thing will be? The first time someone tries a hover-takeoff in a residential neighborhood, the neighbors will scream for the cops.

So sorry - there are lots of solid scientific and engineering reasons why we don’t have personal flying machines en masse.

Flying cars? The carnage will be glorious!

Here’s an update on the old flying car design.

Holy crap! That’s got to be one of the ugliest things I’ve ever seen! No way am I getting into one of those things!

The reason you don’t see flying cars is that there’s no need for them. Right now, people have plenty of options for travelling. They can use public transportation, commercial transportation, or private transportation. Take one of those things away and you might see flying cars, but not for the poor schmucks, just the wealthy few.

Admittedly, however, Bosda makes a good point about ambulances. Moller should be concentrating his effort on that, and not a toy for the wealthy.

Though I agree with you Sam, I can’t help but wonder if your statement will be looked at in 50 years as being slightly humorous: I mean if only 80 years ago I had said, “We will have little boxes with glass fronts that people around the world en masse will be watching for hours on end everyday, someday.”

I’d have been put in the luney bin.

I’m just saying that yes right now the technology is nonexistent. Tomorrow someone may invent zerogravity propulsion and a vehicle that is maximally efficient at multiple levels.

:rolleyes: It’s the Flying Car topic again.

As has been pointed out, we already have “flying cars” made by fine companies such as Cessna, Piper, Mooney, and others. They’re called “light aircraft”, typically seat 4 (although there are 2 and 6 or more seat varieties), use seatbelts very similar to what you find in a ground car, and the same sort of upholstery. A used four-seater in good (i.e. safe to fly) condition can be had for $30k-$50k (variability due to age, instrumentation, engine, and other extras) - in other words, for about the same price as a high-end SUV and cheaper than a Hummer. Toys of the wealthy? Not always - next time you’re on the road and see herds of $30k SUV’s, think to yourself… “those people could have bought an airplane instead of that”. If you own one, YOU could have bought an airplane. There could be a LOT more private pilots in this country than there actually are.

A certain number of “flying cars” are helicoptors. Those are a LOT more expensive.

We already have “flying ambulances”. They’re called “helicoptors”.

So - why haven’t the flying cars we have caught on? A number of reasons.

1) In order to survive a modern “flying car” you actually have to be competant to operate the machine. In other words, you actually have to study to pass a written and practical test that has real meaning. Contrast this with the requirements for “ground cars”. This annoys some people enough that they don’t bother. You must also undergo periodic re-testing to prove you are still competant. This also annoys people. The annoyed people seem oblivious to nearly a century of accumulated evidence that flying vehicles are not particularly forgiving of neither ignorance nor error, and that the consequences of those errors and ignorance can be grave. As in cemetary.

The “flying car” proposals I’ve seen usually mention some sort of computer control system. If we have these in mature form why aren’t they being used in aircraft? The only aircraft I know of where a computer actually does the flying are some very advanced commercial airliners (where human pilots are backups to the machine, and are there to monitor it for proper function), the military’s remote control drones (which have a human operator back at a base somewhere), and some experimental drones that are independent but flown away from populated areas and commercial air traffic. Those don’t always behave as expected, and sometimes crash for puzzling reasons. Two of the above still require a trained human in the loop. All are very expensive. So expensive, in fact, that in most applications a trained hairless ape is much more cost-effective.

I haven’t seen any flying car design that solves this problem. While safe computerized control is theorectically possible, we’re not there yet.

2) Navigation - or, getting lost at 5,000 feet and 180 mph is a whole new experience. Think about how often people get lost while driving. Particularly when driving in an unfamilar area, despite readily available maps, big honkin’ signs everywhere, and the ease of pulling over either to think or to question other humans about one’s whereabouts. This has happened more than once to every driver on the road. Now, imagine how much easier it would be to get lost where there are NO signs, you can’t pull over, you can’t even slow down very much, and there aren’t any roads.

When I get lost in a car on a long road trip there are easy to find, very clearly marked exits for the freeway, with (usually) helpful people at the end of the exit where I can easily slow down, re-orient myself, and ask where I am. This is fairly low stress (particularly since I’m female).

When I get lost in an airplane it’s a different ball of wax. There are no signs up there anywhere. I have to figure out where I am based on landmarks. I have to maintain a minimum speed -meaning not only am I lost, I’m getting even more lost at 70-100 mph. I have to keep flying the airplane. Sometimes I can read town names off water towers - but imagine trying to read one of those (sorting through spraypainted graffitti) while going by at 120 mph. Airports are the equivalent of freeway on/off ramps BUT they aren’t marked - I have to find them amid the houses, trees, fields, buildings, rivers, lakes, and other ground objects that may well be 1/2 mile or more below me. Meanwhile, unlike a road where you can be reasonably sure everyone on your side is going the same direction, in the air traffic can come at you from any direction - left, right, front, rear, above, below. Sure, GPS can tell you where you are - if it’s working (the units do fail from time to time). But it’s also up to the driver/pilot to avoid restricted airspace. We had that even prior to 9/11 and it’s only gotten worse since then. Get lost AND get lost too close to Airforce One and you just might be shot down - the legal authority exists for the airforce to do just that, and given the current political climate, they’d probably bill your heirs for the bullets and the gas for the pursuit jets. In a sense, being intercepted is like being pulled over by a state trooper on the highway - a state trooper with a loaded machine gun on the hood and air-to-air missiles in a sedan that can outrun YOUR car by a factor of 10. And remember - there are no signs up there. Last time I got lost over Illinois I was circling, trying to figure out where I was (I had access to neither GPS nor navigational radios) and hoping to God I wasn’t lost over a power plant and unintentionally circling it (I knew there were six nuclear ones within 100 miles of me, and probably a dozen coal or oil-fired models). Or something else that would get the neighbors in a tizzy. Or violating commercial airspace. Because there is NOTHING up there to indicate when you’ve strayed into a Forbidden Zone except your own brain, eyeballs, and map-reading ability. I try real hard not to get lost. It’s hazardous in a way getting lost in a car is not.

Again, there’s nothing in the flying car designs that would definitively solve these problems. The GPS system they use is the same already in use, with all the same limitations and problems (and expense)

3) The weather. As an example, I would have liked to have flown myself and the husband from Indiana to Tennesee this week, but we drove instead. Why? Because the three thunderstorms we drove through were an inconvenience in the car - in the airplane they would have been deadly. Until you get up to something the size of airliners, in heavy weather cars are more practical. I can drive my car in a 45 mph wind. Most of the airplanes I fly won’t remain parked in a wind like that - either you tie/chain them physically in place or they will literally blow away. The ride in my car does not change based upon how much wind there is, or how many gusts - but it sure does in a “flying car”! Trying to land a Cessna 150 in a 25-30 mile an hour wind with gusts is like trying to pull into your driveway at 75 mph when either the car or the driveway is allowed to shift left and right or up and down at any time. If ice or snow accumulates on my ground car, the car will not spontaneously roll over and skid off the road while upside down into a ditch. An airplane taking on ice, though, will do the equivalent. If the weather gets horrific while driving you can pull over almost anywhere and wait it out - you can’t do that in an airplane - you have to keep flying until you find a safe landing, and if it’s severe enough you may not be able to land safely and will just have to hope your supply of gas and skill lasts longer than the storm around you.

Since most of the weather problems listed above are a result of size vs. storm, none of the proposed flying car designs (which are comparable in size and weight to light general aviation as we presently have it) will solve the problems.

4) The laws of physics make no exceptions. I can NOT drive my car so fast that the speed of the air rushing by it will tear it apart. Every airplane I’m aware of is VERY capable of attaining such a speed if the pilot does something stupid. Gravity never stops working. You can NOT fly through a solid object without severe injury or death as a result - if you hit a telephone pole with your ground car you stand a reasonable chance of surviving. If you hit it with your “flying car” you’ll almost certainly die.

Again, I haven’t seen any solutions to the above problem. A computerized control system might prevent idiot drivers from overspeeding their flying car, it might avoid solid objects, but I don’t think our current computer systems are reliable and sophisticated enough at present.

Flying cars inevitable? Then why do we have fewer active private pilots now than in the 1970’s? Why are there fewer airplanes built and sold than in the 1970’s? Seems to me airborne personal transportation is declining, not increasing.

Well, the subject’s been addressed before, but a small aircraft - regardless of explosives strapped in the back seat - just does not have punch required to damage a nuclear reactor containment building.

As far as stuffing them full of explosives - a plane a.k.a. “flying car” can’t carry as much as a similar sized ground car - it just won’t be able to get into the air. Although there is a fair amount of empty space in a small plane, and presumably any of the proposed “flying cars”, you can’t just randomly stuff every nook and cranny with stuff even if you stay under maximum flying weight - it will render the machine unsteerable. An uncontrollable flying machine that can’t get off the ground makes a very poor terrorist weapon. Even if such a device had very powerful engines that could lift anything you stuffed into it, there is still the problem of balancing the load.

Yes, a small plane CAN cause some damage… about as much as an out-of-control car. While that is nothing to trifle with, it’s not going to cause a “Chernobyl” or knock down 16 acres of major city or a wall of the Pentagon. Heck, a number of years ago a small plane crashed into the side of the White House - a 19th Century structure - and while the airplane was crushed and the pilot killed, the worst damage to the White House was some scratched siding that was fixed by the next day.

While a small plane/flying car could cause some damage, it’s nowhere near as effective as a Ryder van stuffed with a mix of fertizlier and fuel oil at causing damage. People should worry less about airplane and more about the trucks on the road.

No. Or not for a very long time. Would YOU totally trust a car on the road with that sort of system?

Sure. As long as it conforms to the already established Federal Aviation Regulations.

Barnes & Noble, Borders, and all have copies of the Federal Aviation Regulations available for purchase. I would expect any sort of flying car or other flying device to come under those regulations. They already cover everything from balloons and parachutes through blimps, airplane, helicoptors, powered lift, and on up to spaceships. (Under 60,000 feet, the space shuttle is subject to air traffic control just like everybody else in the air)

We already have that. They’re called “aircraft”. I have seen some amazing things from the air - folks just don’t think to look up, or consider that if they’re doing some nude sunbathing that 12 foot privacy fence around their property does nothing to shield them from arial observation.

Minimum age to solo a powered aircraft is 16. Minimum age for a license is 17. Why would a “flying car” be different in that respect from an airplane or helicoptor?

We already have that - various places you can or can’t go while flying, different restrictions for different areas based on traffic load or security or safety reasons.

You land.

Seriously, this sort of thing reminds me of the day I couldn’t start an airplane - complete electrical failure, drained battery, everything. After checking weather, regulations, calling the owner to get an OK and otherwise taking reasonable precautions, I got the plane hand-propped and running and took off - no radios, no navigation equipment, no working engine instrumentation, just airspeed, altimeter, and compass - for the flight to take it back home where there was a repair facility. Now, this airplane has two fuel pumps to supply gas to the engine - without the pumps no fuel gets to the engine, with predictable results on the operating efficiency of said engine. Well, one of those two pumps is electrical and obviously wasn’t working since nothing electrical was working on the airplane. The other is driven by the engine itself.

My co-pilot - much less experienced - suddenly said “Hey, the electric fuel pump isn’t working.”

I said “No, it’s not.”

He said “What if the engine driven pump fails?”

I said: “We land. From this altitude, we’ll touch down about five to seven minutes after the pump quits.”

What happens if you have a failure in an airplane? An accident? You land. Sooner or later you always land. The REAL question is - what sort of landing are you going to have?