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WEDNESDAY, MAY 8, 2013, 1:43 P.M.

Is this the flying car we were promised?

When the United States put a man on the moon in 1969 it might not have seemed naïve to assume we’d be living like the Jetsons by now.  But for all the science-fiction lore that’s become reality since then, being able to make the daily commute in a flying car isn’t one of them.  By the looks of the advancements being made by aerospace company Terrafugia, the future of personal aviation might soon find its way into household garages, and if all goes according to plan, anyone who’s able to drive a car could easily take to the skies. 

Terrafugia is planning to begin deliveries of their Transition in 2015 or 2016, calling it the world’s “first practical flying car.”  Small enough to fit in a single car garage, the street-legal wonder is proof that with necessary exemptions from the NHTSA and FAA, Terrafugia’s upcoming vehicles have the potential to serve as more than futuristic playthings for the rich.   

“This is the right time for us to begin thinking about the future of the company beyond Transition development,” said Terrafugia CEO/CTO Carl Dietrich, “We are passionate about continuing to lead the creation of a flying car industry and are dedicating resources to lay the foundations for our vision of personal transportation.” 

Dietrich’s team is working to take the concept behind the Transition to a higher level of practicality with the development of the TF-X (pictured above); a flying car Terrafugia claims the average driver will be able to learn to fly in about five hours.  To help consumers become aviators before dinner time, the TF-X is being designed with a litany of safety features that promise to take charge of worst-case in-flight scenarios.  From the company website:   

  • TF-X™ vehicles will be capable of automatically avoiding other air traffic, bad weather, and restricted and tower-controlled airspace.
  • TF-X™ will have a backup full-vehicle parachute system which can be activated by the operator in an emergency if the operator believes the TF-X™ to be incapable of auto-landing.
  • If a TF-X™ operator declares an emergency (which will automatically notify authorities of the situation), the TF-X™ can be landed in non-approved landing zones.
  • If the operator becomes unresponsive, TF-X™ would automatically implement an emergency auto-land at the nearest airport.

One of the most significant functional advancements the TF-X will offer over the Transition is the ability to take off vertically from a level clearing of at least 100-feet in diameter, whereas the Transition requires the length of a runway to get into the air. 

Terrafugia says the TF-X will be able to be flown “in a manner similar to steering a car,” and should fit next to the family station in a garage.  For those who might not be as comfortable controlling the gizmo on the street as in the clouds, flying modes can by switched from manual to automatic, which will allow the TF-X  to fly itself between approved landing zones and airports. 

With the Transition priced below $300,000, Terrafugia says the TF-X will be sold for about as much as a very-high-end luxury car.  Although development of the aircraft is expected to last another 8-12 years, the company says customers who reserve the Transition will be able to purchase the TF-X before its release to the public.

It might not be cheap, but driving a street-legal flying car wont be an Isaac Asimov pipe dream much longer.  Now if they could just hurry up and give us those jetpacks we’ve been waiting for.

Watch animation of the TF-X in action here.




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