The 20th century was an amazing period of technological advancement. It progressed from horse and buggies to moon landings, multi-megaton hydrogen bombs, and jet aircraft like the SR-71 that flew so fast (mach 3) and high (80,000 feet) that even missiles couldn’t come close to knocking it out of the sky.
With explosive technological growth like that, surely by now we should have flying cars like the Jetsons. This car misconception that started after the 2nd world war and continued through the 1980s never materialized. Why? There are at least three reasons for this: physics, human limitations, and economics.
For now, our knowledge of physics doesn’t allow for things like antigravity. Because gravity isn’t completely understood, antigravity can’t be completely ruled out. But this very unlikely possibility won’t happen anytime soon. This leaves us with using the air for providing lift which means using wings, propellers, rotors, or jet turbines. In short, a flying car would either be something like a car/airplane hybrid, or a car using a big rotor or directed jet thrust. All of these things have been done or are doable.
However, there are a few barriers that have so far, kept them from becoming a commercial reality. One of these is that using a flying car is much like flying an airplane, helicopter, or jet. It’s a far more difficult skill for the average Joe to master than driving an ordinary car. Getting a pilot’s license is more difficult than a driver’s license for a good reason.
Flying in the air is a tricky and dangerous thing. Air currents, wind shear, coping with bad weather, and navigation in thick fog or cloud cover are just a few of the realities of flight. Moving in three dimensions through a difficult medium like the atmosphere isn’t for everyone or even most people. Even without the intoxication, recklessness, negligence, and distraction that kills many on the road today, people would be crashing into the ground, buildings, and our homes because flying is so much more unforgiving.
The only solution is to leave the flying and navigation to computers. Each flying car would have its own computer that functions much like the autopilots of airline planes. Each computer in turn would have to be linked to some form of air traffic control system. This will only happen if such a mass transport system were economically more viable (cheaper) than our current transportation system, and so far at least, it isn’t.
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