Flying-Car Culture

After a decade of disappointing setbacks, the Chinese automaker Terrafugia is set to launch the world’s first commercially viable flying car in October (click the video link above). Called the Transition, the sticker price on the folding-wing hybrid vehicle is between U.S.$300,000 and $400,000, depending on financing and options—which puts it in the same ballpark as a 2019 Cessna Skyhawk but well under the list price of, say, a 2019 Rolls Royce Phantom.

Admittedly, that may seem a little pricey if you’re thinking about trading up from your 2006 Ford Taurus. But as we know from the recent history of new tech, affluent early adopters can always be counted upon to pave the way for the rest of us—and on time scales that are almost always surprising.

How long before the Transition faces tough competition from the world’s established mass-market automakers? Futuristic such vehicles may well be, but the mind boggles at the bureaucratic complexity of a flying-car culture—vehicle inspection, driver/pilot instruction and testing, air-traffic control, urban landing-pad infrastructure, traffic policing, a bottomless pit of insurance, legal, health and environmental regs, and more. The only certainty is that, here in Ontario at least, we won’t have to bother with Drive Clean tests every two years.