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© PAL-V International B.V.
© PAL-V International B.V.

Cars that morph into ships and carry on sailing on the water are old hat — but always create a stir. Cars that simply take off are futuristic but they could soon become a reality. In several locations around the world, people are busily working on the idea of simply floating out of the way of the increasing volumes of traffic.

Airbus and Italdesign in collaboration with Pop.up recently developed a hybrid between a self-driving electric car and a drone. If traffic is too heavy, the vehicle can call on support from the air. The drone docks onto the capsule together with its passengers and flies away from the traffic jam. Sounds like a vision of the future? And it is. But: Uber, too, are busy working on a flying taxi. The flying car robot, introduced as Puffin, is to fly at speeds of up to 480 km/h and looks like a rocket; realisation of the concept, however, is still many moons away.

© Airbus
© Airbus

Avoiding traffic problems with flying cars

If Aric Domic, Volvo’s Chief Researcher of the Future, is to be believed, flying cars are further advanced than self-driving ones. “I believe that flying cars will become a reality before traffic converts to self-driving cars.” And in fact: The dream of simply taking off could come true in the concrete shape of the newly presented Liberty from PAL-V, a helicopter, three-wheeled hybrid from the Netherlands. On the ground, the vehicle manages 170 km/h, in the air 180 km/h. Converting it to the so-called gyrocopter whose rotor blades are driven by the airflow and not by an engine as in a helicopter, is only supposed to take ten minutes. 20 units out of the limited edition of 90 are to be delivered by the end of 2018 — for a price of 499,999 euros, including flying lessons. However, the sizeable cost is not the only problem. You need a private pilot’s licence if you want to fly.

In the air, the Liberty might encounter the Aeromobil 3.0 from the Slovakian company of the same name. The flying roadster with fold-out wings is to be available this year and have a range of 700 kilometres. However, it crashed once during a test flight in 2015. Six years ago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that it was going to manufacture the world’s first flying car which would go into mass production. It was designed to be used primarily in the air and only on the road as a secondary purpose. A pilot’s licence for it can be obtained in the USA after only 20 flying hours. However, today it is still at the development stage — and none of the flying cars has been delivered yet.