Posting in Design
Flying cars -- long the idealistic vision of futurists past and present -- may always be too impractical. But not impossible.
Okay, cars are getting a lot smarter, as just observed by my colleague Larry Dignan, but why aren't they capable of flying yet? Where are the flying cars? Where are the jetpacks?
Maybe it's time to get over that 1960s-Jetsons-era vision and move on to more realistic, sustainable goals. Then again, maybe flying cars will still be part of a future in some form.
World Future Society spokesman Patrick Tucker tells CBS correspondent Tracy Smith why the future is "okay" without flying cars. Flying cars -- long the idealistic vision of futurists past and present -- may always be too impractical. And considering the way some people drive, it would be better if they weren't whizzing around 1,000 feet in the air. "The regulatory and bureaucratic obstacles to a flying car system in a developed country like the United States are probably insurmountable," Tucker says.
Don't tell the folks at Terrafugia, Inc. about Tucker's poo-pooing of flying cars. Terrafugia said last year that it successfully completed the flight testing program designed for its Transition Roadable Aircraft Proof of Concept. (Check out the video.)
Terrafugia calls its prototype The Flying Car, which completed its historic first flight on March 5, 2009 with 27 additional flights completed over the next several weeks. First delivery of a production model is expected in 2011, the company says.
Then there are interesting innovations happening with hovercraft, which may turn into the first manifestations of mass-produced "flying cars" (even if they do only go a foot above the ground). Just the other day, in fact, President Obama convinced New York Times reporter Sheryl Stolberg to demo a small hovercraft at Industrial Support Inc., a manufacturing services company in Buffalo, N.Y.
Most predictions about the future do tend to miss the mark, but many things are coming to pass as well. Picture phones, for example, were always something that were somewhere off in the future, but are now an everyday reality, thanks to cellphone advances and Webcams. Flat-screen TVs, long anticipated, also are a daily reality. Another interesting twist, Tucker says -- we may be viewing television within our heads.
We do have a space station, a la 2001: A Space Odyssey, albeit much more cramped and sparsely occupied than the grand orbiting hotel envisioned in the movie.
It seems the one area that most futurists of the past got it wrong was computing. Most views of future are a vision of huge, often menacing, Hal-like centralized supercomputers keeping all things connected. (Think 2001, and Colossus: The Forbin Project). I don't think anybody foresaw saw the loose -- and highly democratic -- confederation of systems of all sizes that make up our emerging world of social networking and cloud services.
Image: The Fifth Element/Columbia Pictures
May 14, 2010
Its not just flying cars, how about the robotics that were supposed to be doing everything by now? Bionics, although technically thats just about taking off now. Not what was envisioned, but doing the same job. I'm not complaining, because actually we got what we wanted, but it didnt turn out like we were expecting back in the 70s. The dream of a personal helper - a robot/companion - never materialised. It became clear that the goal of a multi-function machine capable of mimicking human behaviours would have to be human-like to be unobtrusive enough for us and them to not be in each others way all the time. That was out of the question at the time, and has been deferred to the day when the technology is small and powerful enough to do it. What sprang up instead is a layer of technology, a buffer between us and the world. It has its good sides and bad sides - Cars are intelligent enough to remind us of seatbelts and brake without skidding, but we live in a world where the alligator chainsaw means any idiot can cut up a tree like he was using scissors. Its made us, instead of the lazy and decadent race we were originally afraid of becoming, into the lazy and decadent race we are now. I'm not sure flying cars and jetpacks were ever the answer - the 70s were the start of the empowerment we have now, and we still cant accept cars that drive themselves. The resulting chaos as drivers make their own slow, wrong decisions would only be amplified by altitude. I think we ought to sort out the logistics of managed or assisted driving on the ground first, get that working with the efficiency of one of ATC's best days before we go vertical. A cheap, clean renewable or sustainable power source might also be a consideration too. Wheres that while we're here? Peace
I always thought solar powered cars were the future. Turns out I was right. But I had to make it myself. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpNBHh_D8RY
The future is already here in a lot of ways. When I was 5 years old in 1937, radio and automobiles were a novelty. Now I can go anywhere in the world with my BlackBerry Tour. Am I impressed? You bet I am. To these old eyes the future looks bright.
because the past is never what it seems. Where did the nukes go? Up in smoke when the lies sold by the nuclear industry became ALL to painfully evident at TMI. Where did Moonbase 1 go? Down the toilet with the other decent programs raided to pay for tax cuts for the well off and failed wars of conquest. In the end, the future faded because we trusted GREED to do anything other than feed itself.
quote::I don?t think anybody foresaw saw the loose ? and highly democratic ? confederation of systems of all sizes that make up our emerging world of social networking and cloud services. I would hardly describe the current vision of Google, facebook, or any form of Social networking as a loose confederation of anything. Every service these systems provide are, in fact, highly centralised. For sure they are not the huge monolithic computers of science fiction, they are instead huge data centre, made up of what is basically a PC, and located in disparate places around the globe (known only to the owners, and those who work in the data centres). But you and I, and those millions of face book users, don't have any control over any of the data we provide ... once we put it there they (Google and Facebook etc) own it, and control it, in a highly centralised way. They then Data mine it and collate it, and use it in ways we cannot be certain of, and probably wouldn't want, if we did know. In spite of what we might think the Privacy Agreement actually says. The current vision of Social networking and Cloud services is highly centralised and controlled not by the users, but by the providers, there is no loose confederation. There is, one small project that is attempting to reverse this trend, it's called Diaspora, it's a Free Open Source Software project that is attempting to place control of personal data back into the hands of those whose personal or data it is. It would be the only Social networking/Cloud Computing project to date, that is actually attempting to create the "loose Confederation" of systems you seem to think the current Social Networking/Cloud Computing paradigm is.
Ummmm ... there IS a flying car. It will set you back about 100 G and can't be flown above 10 feet without a pilot's license.
the computing menace. if Chinese, or other, hackers are ever successful at controlling large networks of unsuspecting personal computers, especially the one's in cars and other transportation systems, our world will get very ugly very fast. :) .
Until, as and when, as in IF a new form of energy production or energy storage or anti-gravity becomes possible, flying cars have no serious place for the vast majority of people. It takes a HUGE amount of energy for flying compared to driving on the ground. They would use too much energy and cause a vast increase in heat emitted into the atmosphere and so would not be practical for everyday folk!
How about the nuclear powered trains? The nuke in every basement for free unlimited power? I suspect paranoid schizophrenia.