Are flying cars the solution to the traffic problem??

No ticket! Flying car from Airbus radically changes mobility

In times when kilometer-long traffic jams, smog-polluted city centers and generally thick air can take the fun out of driving a car, many researchers and companies are already looking at alternatives. One of them: a “swerve upwards – Flying cars are the future?

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He wears chinos, a shirt and a sweater, heads a company with around 50 employees and makes a reasonable impression. But when Florian Reuter talks about his vision, listeners sometimes have second thoughts. The entrepreneur from Karlsruhe wants to revolutionize local transport and free cities from traffic jams with autonomous flying drones, and he plans to do so soon.

Reuter is not alone with his vision of the so-called Volocopter. In Munich, Lilium is working on a very similar project with the Lilium Jet, and elsewhere in the world, visionaries, aeronautics experts and automotive developers are also thinking about individual air transport as an alternative to the daily standstill in traffic jams.

The idea of a flying car is almost as old as the passenger car and the airplane itself. Having so far failed because of the control system, the noise of the engines and, above all, the necessary flight licenses and the associated costs for the user, it now actually appears to be within reach. At least that’s what Swiss futurologist Lars Thomsen believes, and he sees passenger cars buzzing through cities at lofty heights as early as ten or twenty years from now.

He blames a number of factors for this: Instead of researching manually flown cars, which would need a runway as well as a pilot’s license, as has been the case in the past, developments are currently focused on electric vertical take-off aircraft with autopilot. “They can take off anywhere and anyone can use them”, says Thomsen.

The players have also changed in the meantime: Whereas tinkerers and visionaries used to scrape together money for their research with adventurous financing or their own fortunes, now corporations like Google, Uber or Skype and well-known car or aircraft manufacturers are pouring hundreds of millions into such projects. “That increases the seriousness and the speed”, says Thomsen.

Already mini drones show: Autonomous flying already well developed

Photo: Christoph Schmidt/dpa

The technology is apparently no longer lacking: Florian Reuter’s Volocopter, powered by 18 electric rotors and nine batteries, has completed its maiden flight and this fall flew over Dubai to great public acclaim. According to the manufacturers, the electric motors have sufficient power and the batteries sufficient capacity for loads of well over 100 kilograms and ranges of more than 300 kilometers.

Better toy drones alone make it clear how far automated flight has already come. If devices costing just a few hundred euros can already dodge lampposts and fly around other drones, Thomsen says, why shouldn’t flying machines costing thousands of times more be able to get from A to B safely?

Volocopter boss Reuter, at any rate, finds an ear when he presents his plan: Next year, he wants to launch the Volocopter – then still with a pilot at the wheel and a license in his pocket – as a futuristic sporting device. In a second phase, he plans manned cab flights in metropolitan areas, and in the third, autonomous operation. “And this will happen faster than we all think”, he is convinced.

With this scenario, he was able to get Daimler on board as a partner. The Swabians have taken a stake in the company and hope to soon be able to produce their own batteries from smart& Being able to fly Co in the Volocopter. In doing so, they are even fulfilling a requirement of their company founders: The three points in the star stand for the fact that one should be able to travel with a Mercedes on land, on water and in the air.

Futurologist: “When it comes to living and working, we have long since taken to the air due to a lack of space”

Other major companies are also getting into the starting blocks: According to the market research institute Gartner, Toyota recently announced that it may surprise the public with a flying car as early as the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The Chinese car manufacturer Geely, in turn, has taken over the Terrafugia project, which is being developed under the name “Transition” a car with wings is developed.

Airbus, together with Audi subsidiary Italdesign, showed a concept at the Geneva Motor Show in the spring that aims to combine three modes of transport: The study “Pop.up” is based on a carbon cell for two passengers that – according to the idea – can fly like a drone on a frame with rotors, become an electric car on a base plate with wheels, and could also be placed on trains for long distances or shot through tubes like Elon Musk’s Hyperloop.

Of course, people still have to get used to the idea of being loaded like courier goods and transported under the control of others, admits Matthias Thomsen, who heads the Urban Air Mobility division at Airbus. But the technology could significantly improve life in cities and metropolitan areas, he is convinced: “Adding the third dimension to frictionless multimodal transportation networks will undoubtedly improve the way we live and move from A to B.”

Futurologist Lars Thomson goes even further and considers individual air transport to be a logical consequence of past developments. “When it comes to living and working, we have long since gone “up” due to lack of space, he says with a view to skylines full of skyscrapers. Only the roads, he says, have remained on the ground or gone underground to date. “If we want to stay mobile, transportation must also become more efficient and take advantage of the third dimension.”

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