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article imageOp-Ed: Flying cars and no practical thinking: The craze gets busy

By Paul Wallis     May 16, 2017 in Technology
Tokyo - If a Japanese company succeeds in its bid to deliver its SkyDrive flying cars, (basically drones with cabins), for the 2018 Olympics it’ll be a major sales pitch for the cars. It’s the total lack of thinking which makes flying cars a problem.
The craze for flying cars is taking off, excuse the pun, around the world. Everybody is getting in on the act. There are many different types. SkyDrive, backed by Toyota, is designed to fly 10 metres off the ground with a max speed of 100kph. The Chinese have “flying” mag-lev cars. Uber and just about every attention-seeking company in the industry is at least flirting with the idea.
You can drive these things like a normal car, but the flying aspect changes the basis of assessment. The main thing about flying cars is their new range of risks. Even the idea of flying cars dates back to The Jetsons of the 1960s at least, and probably a lot earlier in old sci-fi. The problem is that to this day there’s been no thinking at all on the subject of practical issues at any level, to continue the puns.
Risk is a critical, life or death issue for anything calling itself a flying car. There’s a long list of risks, too:
1. If anything goes wrong, the car is a flying brick, weighing a considerable amount. The impact would be a lot higher than a conventional car at the same speed, because it’d also be gravity assisted.
2. The number of new things a flying car could crash into includes upper storeys, power poles, billboards, and any elevated structure, and, of course, other flying cars.
3. There aren’t too many scenarios where a crash could be trivial, either. 10 metres is quite high enough to break bones, people, and anything hit by the cars. 100kph ensures serious injuries.
4. There aren’t even the beginnings of any sort of “road rules” for flying cars. That’s a guarantee of trouble on every level from day one.
5. How do you get out of a stalled or stuck flying car in the air? Very dangerously, unless there are other options.
6. How do you catch a flying car, if you have to? Are police supposed to fly after them with butterfly nets? Shooting them down or doing anything which affects their flight would be likely to cause a lot of fatalities.
7. What if it catches fire? Depending on fuel types, a burning flying car could cause major damage.
8. What if they get used by terrorists? A flying bomb isn’t exactly a massive leap of the imagination, but would be pretty damn hard to stop. 100kg of C4 explosives travelling at 100kph would make a big bang.
9. What if people in maniacal gun-toting countries shoot at the cars, the way they do with helicopters in LA? They’d be sitting ducks, and irresistible targets.
10. What about falling junk from flying cars? Just another public safety issue, or what?
11. Where are these things supposed to fly? Over roads? What’s to stop them flying anywhere?
12. Where would you park one of these things? They should really have separate parking spaces, which could cause some irritating issues for those who have to provide the spaces.
13. How much faith are we supposed to have in the skills of people driving machines they’ve never driven before? The obvious driver risks aren’t being addressed at all.
14. What if drive-bys become fly-bys? Charming thought, isn’t it?
15. What about “airworthiness” for flying cars? Or is any flying death trap OK?
Points made, I think. Before getting too negative, flying manned drones do have some uses, but not as public transportation, at least for now. They could be used for evacuation, emergency services in difficult access areas, and other very useful things.
Another positive is ease of use. SkyDrive is said to be a lot easier to drive than a helicopter, for example, which is extremely skilled hard work for real experts.
That said, most people don’t use a helicopter to do the shopping or drive to a friend’s place. There are also no clear indicators of how much flying cars would cost to run, service and insure. You see what I mean about no practical thinking.
The practical uses of flying cars for public transportation are pretty limited at the moment, and introducing a mass transport version would be hard. The infrastructure doesn’t exist, and simply finding space could be expensive. The idea has several obvious merits, but let’s not go nuts.
One more thing – Require a special license for non-idiots only. There are enough morons flying around as it is.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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