Flying Cars: No Longer Just a Dream

When people think of flying cars, they usually picture the Jetson’s mode of transportation, an iconic vision of a futuristic utopia. However, the idea is closer than we think. About a couple weeks ago, Uber Technologies Inc. announced the expected initial testing of air-travel in 2020. The two target cities are Dallas and Dubai, both of which suffer from heavy car congestion. The goal is ambitious but important; the implications of affordable and efficient technology are tremendous.

How does this work? The idea of the “flying car” requires a new type of battery-powered vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (VTOL). The “flying car” would take off from “vertiports” in urban cities, usually on rooftops of buildings.

Though it is fun to think about the idea of the Jetson’s flying car coming to life, the actual vehicle will be not be similar to an automobile nor helicopter. Additionally, due to the goal of affordable travel (Uber projects the long-term cost to be around $200,000) and efficient technology for the larger population, the “flying car” will most likely be first used as an air shuttle.

“Flying cars” aren’t just useful for reducing traffic congestion. Berger board member, Mari Adam ’80, elaborates on the financial impact of the new technology, adding that it is not clear yet who will benefit from the innovation and who will not.

After learning about all the caveats past the “click-bait” title of the article, one question remains: should we be excited about this? As someone who has interned the past two summers in an innovation and technology department, my answer is a resounding yes. Innovation and technology not only matters in terms of building the ideal product. Rather, a large part of the journey of innovation is the trial-and-error that inspires people to think outside the box and encourages people to explore their seemingly wild ideas. The “flying car” coming into fruition is symbolic of surpassing boundaries and achieving the unachievable. One important lesson we can take away from Uber’s decision to embark on this ambitious project can be best summed up by Uber’s chief product officer, Jeff Holden: “If you’re not planting the seeds for five, 10 years out, you have no company in five to 10 years.” Innovation does not happen overnight, and I am glad to see Uber pushing forward technologies that can enhance our future.

By: Sharon Chiang ’17