Thinking Tech

Terrafugia flying car to hit the streets (and skies) in 2011

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The future is here. At least, the future as seen through the lens of Blade Runner.

We've reported on Terrafugia before, but here's a quick primer for those who haven't read up on this oddball. The Terrafugia Transition is popularly billed as a flying car, but it's really more of a street-legal ultralight plane. Built by MIT alumni, it's a stocky little plane with wings that fold up alongside the body, making the final land-bound vehicle fully street-legal.

Drivers need to have a sport license to operate the Terrafugia, which is actually a selling point the company fought hard to protect. Terrafugia had to obtain a special waiver from the FAA to keep its flying car in the range of sport licensed aircraft, as it happens to fall slightly over the official weight limit for those kinds of planes.

But it was worth it--a sport license is a fairly easy thing to secure, requiring only a practical test and 20 hours of flight time.

The Terrafugia Transition is capable of a 115mph cruising speed and about a 400-mile range, which means the vehicle falls squarely in the commuter category. You won't be driving to the Atlantic and then flying to the UK, is what I'm saying.

Today brings big news on the Terrafugia front: the Transition will be produced in Woburn, Mass., a suburb of Boston, beginning in late 2011. The company has received 85 orders for the (quite expensive--up to $250,000) plane/car already, and seeing as how the company needs to make only about 50 a year to stay profitable, things are looking pretty rosy for Terrafugia.

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Dan Nosowitz

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Dan Nosowitz has written for Popular Science, Fast Company and Gizmodo. He holds a degree from McGill University in Canada. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure