Future of City Travel: Flying Car Set for Launch

Despite the timing, this is not an April Fool’s joke:  if all goes to plan, flying cars could soon be a familiar sight in cities across the world.

Silicon Valley-based Mix Aerospace has developed a plan for a vehicle that functions both as a car and a personal flying machine, which it has named Skylys. The company is seeking funding through Indiegogo to make the project a reality.

While the idea may seem technologically remote, the company already has a complete design as well as a number of patents and backing from key figures in the aerospace industry.

If enough funding is attracted, a prototype should be ready by 2017.

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Skylys will fly in a similar way to a helicopter, using a vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) system integrated into a set of wings, meaning that it could be flown by anyone with a helicopter licence. Once it lands, the wings will detach, turning it into a road-legal car that can be driven as normal.

Although flying cars are traditionally a staple of retrofuturistic city concepts, the company believes that there is huge potential for the technology in the real world.

Writing on its Indiegogo project page, the company said: “A lot of people want to believe in flying cars but find it hard to grasp the reality of the situation, pushing the idea back to science fiction and out of reach. We strongly believe that the time is right, there are uses for such a vehicle.”

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Initially Mix sees Skylys being used by police, fire and ambulance services, and believes it could play a major role in disaster situations such as Hurricane Katrina, where it could have airlifted people from flooded areas of New Orleans.

It also sees it as a potential vehicle for private individuals: it could replace private chauffer services in cities where traffic congestion is a problem, and could land on buildings in skyscraper-rich cities such as Dubai.

Long-term we’d like to think it will be accessible to normal people, but for now it is likely to be restricted to the super wealthy. Funders can pre-order a vehicle now, although with the incredibly hefty price tag of €1m we don’t expect many takers.

The Indiegogo campaign, which started yesterday, has a target of €2.25m but is using flexible funding, meaning that the company will keep any money raised even if it does not hit the final goal.

The project seems in part to be to raise enough money to recruit engineering staff and boost awareness so that the company can attract venture capital financing and build an international marketing platform to sell to the wealthy elite.

Update: This article has been updated to reflect a change on the Indiegogo website which originally stated the cost to receive a prototype was €1bn – since publication this has been changed to €1m. 


Images courtesy of Mix Aerospace.


Talking traffic lights that can reduce road-rage to be tested in Japan

Smart road technology that will make junctions safer and help to improve the environment has been given the green light to be used on public roads for the first time.

Infrared beacons on traffic lights will talk to cars approaching the lights and let the driver know if they should be moving slower or braking.

The technology will solve the problem of impatient drivers waiting at traffic lights as it will display how long the red light will stay on for, which could reduce a lot of stress and road-rage.

As a car approaches a set of traffic lights the system in the car will speak to the lights and say if the car is able to go through a green light, and the speed it should travel at.

If the light is about to go red it will tell the driver to take their foot off the pedal so as not to have to slam the breaks on as they arrive at changing lights.

Vehicle manufacturer Honda is to conduct the testing in the Japanese city of Utsunomiya.

The brakes were taken off the researchers’ plans as up to 100 vehicles will be used on the city’s roads to see whether reducing the amount of unnecessary acceleration and deceleration will improve safety and vehicle emissions.

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A post on the Honda website says that the testing will begin in April and last for up to a year on five routes in the city and its suburban areas.

The company says the difference the testing will make includes: “Changes in vehicle behaviour that have an impact on traffic safety such as sudden acceleration and deceleration, effectiveness in CO2 emissions reduction and fuel economy improvement, and an impact on traffic flow.

“Honda will utilize verification results to further advance its research and strive to commercialize the driving support system.”

It goes on to say: “Through these efforts, Honda will strive to attain its environmental and safety vision to realize the joy and freedom of mobility and a sustainable society where people can enjoy life.”

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The announcement by Honda is the latest in the race to development smarter roads, cars and transport that will make our lives easier. Next week the first working prototype of a car park made of solar panels will open.

Other proposed changes to the road surfaces include creating magnetic roads that could reduce the number of accidents that occur. These have been tested by Volvo, and Sweden has expressed a large interest in adopting the technology on its road networks.

Technologically advanced future road systems, and also those that can harness the power of our natural resources, should also benefit the environment as well as changing the way we travel.

Norway is leading the field in trying to make its road networks better for the environment, as it has announced that cars burning fossil fuels in the country’s capital, Oslo, will no longer be allowed. From 2035 all traffic into the city needs to be zero emissions, marking a key point in the green vehicle revolution.


Featured image courtesy of Shinichi Higashi via Flickr / Creative Commons Licence