As a kid, one of my favorite cartoons was The Jetsons. I’m sure my child’s mind enjoyed the plot twists and turns of George, Jane, Judy, and Elroy, but my real passion for the show was the technology: flying cars passing the skyscrapers that were built above the clouds on stilts, moving sidewalks, robots that cooked and cleaned. To me, the show was a realistic glimpse of the future; it’s what my juvenile self truly expected the 21 st century to be.
Well, it’s 2012, and the adult I’ve become has a question: where’s my flying car?
Hands down, my favorite futuristic aspect of George Jetson’s life was his flying car. I loved watching him zip around the sky like a bird, playing the role of his own personal airline pilot. Of course, at the time I was watching these shows (on cable in the late 80s), I didn’t even know how to operate a bike, much less a motorized vehicle, but I didn’t see the point, really; by the time I hit 16, I’d be taking my driver’s license test in a flying car, not one with four-wheel drive and a stick shift.
Of course, I didn’t get to take my driver’s exam behind the wheel of a flying car. But here’s the cool thing: I soon might.
The big buzz at this past spring’s New York International Auto Show wasn’t an automobile at all; rather, it was a car/plane hybrid by Massachusetts-based Terrafugia. The company’s name should give you a hint as to its products. Terra is Latin for earth or land, while fugia comes from the Portuguese verb “fugir,” which means to escape – and that’s literally what Terrafugia’s Transition model does. It allows you to escape the bounds of earth’s gravity.
The Transition isn’t quite ready for The Jetsons, though. One of the first road blocks? The price tag: reports suggest it could retail for $279,000. And that’s not all – while the Transition can literally transform from a road-ready vehicle to a light sports aircraft in 30 seconds or less, it still requires a runway for takeoffs and landings, meaning you won’t be able to traffic hop during rush hour. You’ll also have to pay for pilot lessons, as the Transition requires 20 hours of flight training and certification before you can get behind the wheel.
Volkswagen also generated a lot of hype this year when it unveiled its new hover car – which looks more like a wheel than an actual vehicle. And speaking of a wheel, this car doesn’t use one for steering; instead, the VW hover car uses a joystick to change directions. It relies on electromagnetic levitation to hover just a small distance off the ground and – best part – produces absolutely no emissions.
For the folks at Terrafugia, the future is now. The company is already taking orders for its Transition model, provided you can afford the $10,000 refundable down payment.
As for Volkswagen, the new hover car is still merely a concept vehicle. VW has yet to announce when or where it will be available on the market.
Reader, did you dream about flying cars like I did as a kid? What other technologies are you yearning to try in the future?