Will Cars Fly? Or Will They Just Get Smarter?

When people talk about the cars of the future, three things usually find their way into the conversation. Ranging from the nearly there to the seemingly impossible, they are:

  • Connected cars
  • Driverless cars
  • Flying cars

Before cars fly, they will be updatable, much the way your phone is now. Car manufacturers will be able to add new features by updating software and may be able to correct problems that would now lead to a recall and a much-dreaded visit to the dealer.

Tesla has already used remote wireless software updates to add emergency braking to its vehicles and promises in the future to be able to add features like automated steering and a valet function that enables you to get your car from a parking garage by using your phone.

Smart car

(mmurphy)

Connected cars could talk to other connected cars, a way to perhaps ensure a safe distance between vehicles. And, amidst an internet of things, the car can communicate with sensors on traffic lights, street signs or utility poles. You might be able to get some advice as to the nearest parking spot or maybe a warning that at your current speed you won’t be able to negotiate the upcoming bend in the road.

Many of these features represent the baby steps in the march toward driverless, or autonomous cars. And the motivation is safety. It has been estimated that driverless cars could prevent as many as 9 out of 10 accidents.

We have seen a growing increase in automotive features that involve automating tasks that used to be the responsibility of the driver. There are cars on the market today with automated braking systems, with devices that detect pedestrians or bikers, that will tell you if someone’s in your blind spot or if you are drifting out of your lane. There is even software that can detect that you’re getting drowsy.

As more and more of these features are added, we get closer to day when the driver is no more useful than a crash test dummy. For established car companies this seems like an evolutionary process. But they are no doubt looking over their shoulder at Google, a company without the catalog of dinosaurs to protect.

So when will we see driverless cars? Google is already testing them on public roads in California. In Michigan a fake town, Moby, has been built for the sole purpose of testing autonomous vehicles. Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Audi are all testing driverless cars. Google says they’ll be ready by 2018. Nissan will have them for sale by 2020. Uber is predicting its entire fleet will be autonomous by 2030. And the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) predicts that driverless cars will constitute 75% of the vehicles on the road in 2040. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has even suggested that the day may come when drivers are illegal on some roads.

Future carThere are a number of problems still to be overcome. If you can be wirelessly updated, you can be hacked. What happens if the computer system driving your car crashes? But the biggest issue might be sharing the road with human drivers. Your law-abiding robotic vehicle may come to a stop when a traffic light turns yellow, but the guy behind you might floor it to make the light. Can a courteous safety-conscious auto-driver ever make its way through a busy intersection with a four-way stop sign? Google claims that its driverless cars have been involved in 16 accidents during the course of their tests and that every one of those fender-benders was caused by a human driver.

Not everyone is convinced that driverless is the way to go. Toyota, for one, is focusing its efforts on assisting and improving drivers rather than replacing them. Last week Toyota announced a $50 million research project, working with MIT and Stanford, to explore the use of artificial intelligence to upgrade drivers. (Toyota to Finance $50 Million ‘Intelligent’ Car Project). Gil Pratt, who is heading the initiative commented,  “A worry we have is that the autonomy not take away the fun in driving. If the autonomy can avoid a wreck, it can also make it more fun to drive.”

None of these initiatives, however, are going to help you with the massive pothole, the construction detour or the crumbling bridge. Not to mention the mind-numbing traffic that is predicted to get a lot worse. One of my readers commented in a previous post that her 6-mile commute to her office already takes 45 minutes. For that, we need cars that fly.

I found a company in Massachusetts that purports to the able to do just that. Per Terrafugia’s Web site: “Our first product, the Transition, is a two-place, fixed wing, street legal airplane which has been internationally heralded as the ‘first practical flying car.’  It is designed to fit in a single car garage, be safely driven on the highway, and be flown in and out of general aviation airports. “

There is also a Slovakian company named AeroMobil, which at this year’s South By Southwest Interactive claimed they’ll have a flying car in the market by 2017 and that the price will fall somewhere between a Tesla and a small private plane,. So it won’t be cheap. We’re probably quite a ways off from worrying about traffic jams moving off the ground. But it will be nice for the couple of folks here and there who can afford them.

This entry was posted in Technology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Will Cars Fly? Or Will They Just Get Smarter?

  1. jacquiegum says:

    There are so many things to look forward to with the future of cars, and so many to fear! LOL Sone cars are already being hackd and that represents the biggest danger, as far as I can tell. I have always thought that we need to resove that part of the puzzle first! AND then we will have to come with the many regulations and laws and squabbling over that…. a lot to figure out!.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Beth Niebuhr says:

    There are so many factors! Our highways really need attention and that’s on the bottom of Congress’s list, I believe. I find it all interesting and glad I can just sit back and watch. Since new very small planes cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, I don’t think flying cars will be very prevalent. And as a pilot and flight instructor, I know how tricky that extra dimension is.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Erica says:

    I found out one of the downfalls to modernized cars earlier this year. My car wouldn’t start. At the time, my car only had 15,000 miles on it, and AAA was ready to tow me to the dealer. As it turns out, my electronic key got scrambled. I got the spare key and I was on the road again. (And luckily, my old key was replaced by my warranty). As far as driverless cars, my husband will tell you that I’m way to nervous of a back-seat-driver to give up control to a computer.

    Like

  4. Phoenicia says:

    I cannot help but think of Back to the Future with Michael J Fox. I recall being wowed by the flying cars back in the 1980’s!

    I do not like the idea of driverless cars – well unless it is for those who physically cannot drive. Whilst my limbs are in working order I would quite like to use them.

    Toyota spent £50 million on a “research project”………………….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t know about the fake town Moby. That’s interesting! They should have a live feed to the town so people can see them in action.

    Like

  6. lenie5860 says:

    Ken, I won’t have to worry about these ‘improvements’ to cars, thank goodness. The idea of a machine having control over me is not one I like. There are way to many issues still to be resolved, hacking, software crashing, etc.

    Like

  7. Let’s see what will happen. Now experts are coming out saying driverless cars will not happen. And worst of all is the problem of hacking. Cars in the future will definitely be much more intelligent and able to do what we can’t yet do. But in what ways we will find out, gradually. Personally much prefer to drive my car than facing the prospect of being hacked:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Meredith says:

    I was just talking about this with my kids the other day! I’m pretty skeptical, but that’s because I think I’m a good driver. Now, all those other drivers out there…maybe we’d do better with driverless cars. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  9. patweber says:

    Well I do remember, The Jetsons. Those were flying cars they had so, why not. A few car manufacturers are already giving us glimpses of the driverless cars. It’s all quite possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I kind of agree with improving the drivers instead of the cars. I hate for us to have “Smart Cars” and “Dumb Drivers”. I could see a future where you take your driving test, and never touch the steering wheel. I think if anything, we will have more warning systems on the cars, telling us of impending disasters or issues in front of us. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I don’t know if I would want to have a car drive for me. I would need control over the vehicle.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Driving is fun in its own way. I can’t imagine sitting in a car as it drove me around and I had nothing to do, but that’s just because that’s not part of my present reality. I guess we all would adapt, but like many others here say, driverless cars seem a ways off for many reasons. I’m going on my third try of having the same place fix an oil leak. My car can tell me if it has low air in tires and other warning lights come up, but it would be great if cars had better app-like diagnostics that would notify their owners of problems sooner rather than later.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m going to start walking more. Ha ha!
    Ken, I sent this to my husband–the car guy. We’re determined to hang onto his 1964 GTO so that we have a car without computer stuff in it.

    Well written post about what is coming down the Pike (so to speak)…I truly am not sure I’m ready for a car to do all the thinking for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Arleen says:

    I have to have control of the wheel so a machine having control over me is not going to work. My have enough problem with air traffic in the sky, I really can’t see it working well during my lifetime.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I was just talking about this the other night. I was wondering if having driverless cars would pose a security risk.I think someone would figure out how to use them as weapons and put our highway systems at risk. What about the cost of replacing part for these things? I drive a Saab and the key is computer linked. If wanted to get an additional spare key the cost is over $400!

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Andy says:

    So, if cars will one day be able to communicate with traffic lights and speed limit signs, will this put an end to red-light cameras and speeding tickets? If so, what will law enforcement do about the resulting loss of income?

    Like

  17. Tim says:

    This whole subject of driverless cars and cars with automated braking systems freaks me out a little. I saw a show recently where two hackers showed how they were able to hack into a cars computer system and take over the driving; and that’s with todays cars. Can you imagine an evil genius in ten years taking control of cars all over a city. I know am getting all James Bond on you but is a little concerning.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s