The world has not yet outgrown its dependence on land based vehicles, let alone solved the different problems it has brought along, and already a new era of transportation seems tantalizingly at sight on the horizon: the flying car.
The US company Terrafugia has successfully completed the maiden flight of its flying car prototype, the Transition, last month. Another flying car prototype by a Dutch company, the PAL-V, has also completed several test flights. The exciting possibilities that both prototypes inspire seem sky high indeed, but practical and environment-related issues bring starry eyes back to earth.
Carbon Footprint and Emissions
100 people have allegedly paid the trifling (cough, cough) pre-order deposit sum of $10,000 for the Transition. This may not yet exact a heavy toll in terms of both the Transition’s carbon footprint and emission, but what will happen when flying cars like the Transition become more affordable for the public? Both cars and airplanes are known heavy CO2 emission contributors. The millions of cars in modern cities and the aviation industry are equally under pressure to reduce emissions, and fast. Hybrid cars, solar airplanes, and alternative fuels all seek to address this problem. Can the flying car deliver eco-friendly service and efficiency, without the drag of heavy carbon footprint and emission?
Traffic Related Accidents and Safety
Someone once compared the accuracy of thousands of locusts all moving together at once without colliding into each other, and accident prone human drivers on today’s streets and highways. While flying cars do have the possibility of influencing city builders to favor pedestrian based urbanscapes, the prospect of a collision over our heads seems a little more troubling than street level accidents. Does a few meters off the ground make an infallible driver better, and his route safer?
Although both prototypes flew only at a few thousand feet above the ground, the idea of seeing long lines of flying cars in the sky for miles is sufficient to induce a sickening feeling for some people. No matter how crowded a traffic congested street may be, one may leave it by simply looking up into the vast expanse of the sky. Will we see rush hour traffic together with the migrating swallows? Or see parallel lines of headlights competing with the twinkle of stars and meteor showers?
Many of us would like to own or at least experience a flying car, but if that doesn’t pop the Jetson lifestyle daydream bubble a little bit, perhaps the Transition’s estimated price tag of $279,000 will. Or the fact that a 520 m runway is needed for take-off (sorry, king size driveways don’t count). At any rate, progress is one of the things hard to slow down; might as well try slowing down a speeding train with your bare hands. No one will really be able to tell if our skies will be the next site for intersections in the near future, and if that will be a good thing or not. There is one good thing the world has anyway, before the take off of the flying car: the lessons their land based ancestors have taught us.
Estel Grace Masangkay is a freelance creative writer who enjoys outdoor trips and activities in natural settings. She is passionate about animal welfare and environment conservation. Follow Me @Em23me.
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