By Jody McCutcheon
The line between reality and science fiction blurs more every day. Volkswagen’s concept flying car is one of those blurring forces.
In 2011, “the people’s car company” launched “The People’s Car Project” to crowd-source its vision of tomorrow’s transport. One such vision embraces that longstanding symbol of technological progress and human ascendance, the flying car.
VW’s concept is based on the design of one Wang Jia, of Chengdu, Sichuan province, China. She envisioned a tall, narrow, easy-to-park two-seater shaped like a giant tire, hovering several inches off the ground, and controlled via centre-console joystick. And it’s emission-free!
Volkswagen brought the idea to life last year, at least for the duration of a short video.
The clever idea underpinning this concept flying car is similar to the magnetic levitation system enabling Shanghai’s Maglev train. With the reduced friction of Maglev transportation, the flying car maneuvers with ease, forward and backward; side to side, and can even perform tight spins on its axis, for hairpin turns and easy maneuverability in cramped urban settings. Distance sensors measure proximity to external objects (i.e. other vehicles), and if something gets too close, the flying car will automatically and rather suddenly cut speed–so seatbelts are a must. And did someone say autopilot? Someone certainly did. Recline and relax.
Unfortunately, you’d need an entire electromagnetic infrastructure of roads and tracks to get around in this beauty, and even a rudimentary grid would require extensive financing. Plus, the grid- dependent flying car would be totally restricted to areas within the infrastructure, which of course means no off-roading.
VW’s concept flying car might not be imminent, or even viable. But it we say it represents a good R&D investment toward unlocking the potential of mass Maglev travel.