Friday, 1 January 2010

Where's my flying car? (with answer)

It's 2010 - Where's my flying car? It's not a new question but a it's good time to repeat it. 2010 ("twenty-ten") is a semi-notable new year and we've got a new generation of adults who grew up with rapidly-improving technology that affected their everyday lives. Many of them are disappointed that technology hasn't progressed further by now.

For as long as I can remember, two things have symbolizing the future of personal technology: Video phones and flying cars. From the promises made to my generation in its youth, both technologies have gone on to become icons of an undelivered future.

So what happened? The technology for video phones has been around for decades. It was never really a case of not being possible, it was a case of public apathy. It turned out that very few people actually wanted to make themselves available for viewing at any time of day or night. The technology was there but the market wasn't.

As it happens I think we're getting ready for video phones now - cellphones are taking us where landlines alone couldn't. The real issue is of course flying cars.

I think it's a similar situation. There are plenty of flying cars out there and if the market was ready, one or more of them would take off (pun intended). The problem is in the market. How many people actually want to fly to their common destinations? How exactly would it work anyway if we just moved our roads up into the air? There are so many ways for that to turn nasty - it's hard to justify the risk of letting the general population loose in aircars rather than finding better ground-based transport systems. We'd have to limit personal flight in some way - most likely to occasional recreational flights and/or longer journeys in strictly controlled air-roads.

Then there's the environmental impact of air-roads. Flying cars would use a lot of energy, but even if they could be relatively eco-friendly it makes sense to apply the same guidelines as ground-based travel; i.e. pool and use public transport where possible. So instead of developing a huge fleet of personal flying cars, a better solution would be a smaller fleet of flying buses. Guess what - we already have them. They're called planes.

I do foresee a future in personal flight for recreational use but I don't see commuters flying to the office any time soon.