Airbus joins the flying car club

As we’ve noted many times in this space over the years, flying cars are a fairly impractical solution to a problem. Most every flying car project that’s underway continues to take investors’ money and delay the rollout.

Local communities aren’t going to allow people to use the highway as a runway, and swapping congested roads for congested skies isn’t the answer to anything.

But now Airbus has announced it is working on a flyable car, The Telegraph reports today.

CEO Tom Enders told a technology conference in Germany that it planned to test a prototype by the end of the year.

By 2021, he said, a vertical takeoff vehicle could be in production.

“One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground,” Enders said.

He said the CityAirbus vehicle could be deployed without many regulatory changes, although he didn’t say — or at least The Telegraph didn’t report — how that would be accomplished.

Meanwhile, other transportation experts see the solution to congestion on terra firma.

They just need to figure out how to make buses “sexy”, the Boston Globe reports today.

“Bus riders who are transit-dependent are still treated as captive,” said Penn Loh, a longtime transit activist who teaches at Tufts University. “They are stuck on the system, they don’t have another choice, and they are the lowest priority.”

To start with, many riders think the lowly image of the bus is often well-deserved: the busiest lines can be loud, slow, and offer a jostling ride that is light on comfort.

The bus’s reputation as the transportation of last resort has deep roots.

Many less wealthy neighborhoods — where households are less likely to have cars — don’t have as many subway and commuter rail stops, leaving buses as the only mass transit option. According to demographic data from 2008, the most recent information available, MBTA buses and trolleys served the highest percentage of low-income riders, followed by subways, then commuter rail and ferries.

The primacy of the car as a powerful symbol of status and freedom has also hurt the image of the bus, advocates say.

“We live in a culture that glorifies automobiles,” Loh said.

  • MrE85

    I set a personal record for bus ridership in 2016, although I do drive most days. When the weather is a little better (some walking is required on my route), I’ll be back.

  • Rob

    If riding public transit didn’t add 40 minutes to my 10 minute commute, I’d be happy to use it

    • MrE85

      It’s longer for me, too, but I see other benefits. Besides, if I’m going to talk about vehicles’ role in air pollution, I should “walk the walk,” no?

  • Gary F

    I almost barfed years ago in my only flight in a Cesna. I used to have to fly connection flights often from St Louis to Springfield on prop aircraft and always made sure I had an empty stomach.

    I’ll pass.

  • jon

    What’s the goal again for flying cars? (other than it’s wicked cool.)
    To alleviate congestion and reduce travel times, maybe limit the amount of government spending on road infrastructure?

    Congestion happens in cities, where people won’t likely be allowed to fly these things.

    Travel times might be reduced for longer trips, but they’ll still be slower than commercial air liners I’d imagine, so effective area for range is going to be where they can beat the time you’d spend in security and waiting at the airport… maybe things like from here to madison, or duluth… but I think here to chicago will still be faster and cheaper with commercial airlines.

    And infrastructure for roads is most affected by weight, and most of the weight on our road systems is frieght… so reducing infrastructure costs doesn’t seem like a thing that might happen either.

    Use cases seem limited for a flying car… though I still wouldn’t turn one down if you are offering.

    • Paul

      Prophecy fulfillment

  • Dan

    “One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground,” Enders said.

    True, though I’ve seen proposals for gondola transit systems that would be far more practical than flying cars.

  • Zachary

    eh… wake me when we have jetpacks…