Flying Cars Impractical

 Blader Runner car over LA

For anyone stuck in traffic having a flying car is the ultimate dream. It sounds like a good idea and looks so uber cool on film. Imagine zipping around the skies in a flying car like George Jetson or Doc Brown with his DeLorean in Back To The Future. You’re late for work, traffic has come to a halt on I-95 due to construction or some accident. But no problem! Shift your car to flight mode and off you go. Soar by all the rubberneckers and you make it in time to your meeting with minutes to spare.

Transition Production PrototypeThe problem with this concept is that flying cars are not practical, today. Yes, there are inventors fine tuning actual flying cars but they’re bound to be a novelty items at least for the near future. Actually, those so-called flying cars that are being tested now are really just mini-copters or airplanes with automobile features. They’re not hovercraft. Several companies that are testing practical flying cars include Terrafugia, Haynes Aero and Moller International. In fact, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has a multi-million dollar program with Terrafugia to build flying  military vehicles.

Terrafugia car

You would think that with all these recent developments and press releases that flying cars are just around the corner. The truth is that people have been building prototypes going back decades, but the cars built just weren’t practical. And neither are the ones being tested now.

Skyjams

Let’s look at the traffic scenario from above. OK , you’re stuck in traffic and switch your car over to flight mode to escape congestion. That would be fine if you’re the only one with a flying car. More likely, many drivers around you would have flying cars as well and have the same idea as you.  Before you know it, the traffic will be following you into the sky. Then there’s coordinating the air traffic with all the cars suddenly going up into the air. It would be a chaotic, logistical headache and will probably lead to more accidents.

DeLorean in sky traffic

As shown in Back To The Future, Part II, Doc Brown had to deal with traffic in the air when he flew the DeLorean time vehicle. In fact, there’s this one scene where he complains about congestion in the skyway. The film showed that when flying, the cars had to follow a certain path. A driver won’t have free reign and space to just go anywhere. Actually, any pilot will tell you that planes and helicopters have rigid flight paths that they must adhere to; any deviation has to be cleared with air traffic control. Flying cars will also have to follow strict flight paths; in effect a skyway will be created with these paths. So if flying cars were to take off in popularity, the traffic congestion won’t go away. It may turn out to be faster to stay on the ground! Of course, there are some futurists that may scoff at this hurdle with claims that flying cars operate three dimensionally instead of today’s ground vehicles that operate two dimensionally. In theory, they claim that traffic jams would not be a problem for a vehicle operating in a three-dimensional plane but reality will probably dictate otherwise.

Air & Road Compatible

Another issue is that there are many dials and features on a plane that a pilot has to contend with so it’s more complicated to operate than a car. Remember when they showed the dashboard and controls in that flying spinner car in Blade Runner? It looked very complex. Then there is making sure the cars meets both road and air standards.  What about safety features? Convertibles are definitely out, which makes that flying car chase sequence in Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones even more ludicrous. It’s one thing to have Obi-Wan Kenobi landing on Anakin Skywalker’s flying car unscathed or Anakin jumping out of it to get to the assassin’s vehicle; it can be explained that they used the Force to control their falls. But Anakin jumped out of a convertible, how safe would that vehicle be or practical without a helmet and mask? Just look at the old biplanes. The pilots in them had to wear helmets, goggles and warm clothing. All that wind up in the sky is cold and brutal, there isn’t any way anyone could operate an open-air flying car.

Star Wars flying car

What if something goes wrong? This won’t be like a normal car situation where the vehicle just stops working and you push it off to the side of the road. No, that thing is coming down. Perhaps an onboard computer will sound off an alarm if something is wrong with the car, forcing an emergency landing. But how trustworthy is that computer?

A look at the current prototypes will tell you that these things can’t easily fit into an average mall parking lot or garage. The flying features, i.e. the wings and propellers, have to be more compact to reduce the vehicles’ profile on the road. But how much can be reduced to operate safely in the air? All of this will add significantly to the price of the cars. Which means even if they came out tomorrow only the wealthy can afford them. Plus, what kind of fuel is to be used and its cost hasn’t been taken into account. Continue reading

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It’s 2015, Where Are My Flying Cars & Hoverboards!?

Okay it’s now the year 2015, we first caught a glimpse of this year from the classic film Back to the Future, Part II. As many readers know, in that film Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) time travel from 1985 to 2015 and spend the first act of the movie in that time period.

The movie obviously showed us what 2015 would be like and no kidding, they got many details wrong. There isn’t any shame in this, Back to the Future, Part II came out in 1989 and the production team made their best guesses as to how the future would be like over twenty years from then. Things where bound to be incorrect.

As wrong as many predictions were, the whimsical look of Hill Valley, CA circa 2015 showcased several nifty products and events that make us wish they were a reality today. Believe it or not some devices and events do exist to an extent, while others don’t and just aren’t practical. Let’s look at some of them:

  • Flying cars: Best represented by Doc Brown’s converted DeLorean, Back to the Future, Part II had the best representation of flying cars delorean_flyingseen on film. All the vehicles sure look flashy and seemed convenient. The good news is that flying cars are being tested right now, the bad news is that in the end they may be impractical. Think about it, anyone operating them has to become a pilot and let’s not get into the logistics of actually using them and the headaches they will cause.
  • Hoverboards: Like flying cars, this device is in the testing phase. Technically they do exist, called the HENDO Hoverboard, it’s a magnetic skateboard that only works on copper surfaces and float an inch above ground. That’s hardly the commonplace item seen in the movie. No doubt that when they do enter the market they will be for the one percenters only and probably won’t be available in pink for a while.
  • Nikes Air MAGs: Nike is in a race to air magsactually have those famous sneakers worn by Marty McFly ready by the year’s end. Called the Air MAGs, these sneakers were actually recreated in 2011 and look just like the way they did in the film. But sadly, they didn’t self lace themselves.That doesn’t mean that Nike is giving up! The problem is the power source for the sneakers to lace themselves. The shoe manufacturer will probably solve this problem, but expect it to sell for a high price.
  • Power jackets: Remember that jacket Marty McFly wore that had self-fitting sleeves and dried itself? That would be a neat piece of wardrobe to have, especially if power pants were available with the same features. No more worrying about the expanding waistline and having to get new pants.
  • Dust repellent paper and fax machines: When Marty bought the infamous sports almanac that listed future winners, the saleslady mentioned that dust repellent paper seemed to be a common feature of books and other periodicals in 2015. Such paper doesn’t exist, but there isn’t a need for it. Digital media in smartphones and tablets are making dead tree products obsolete. In the film,  fax machines were in every room in a typical suburban home. OK most homes have fax machines built in printers, but they’re not in every room nor are they needed.
  • TV blinds: Having blinds doubling as TVs is a nice idea, but the one shown in the older Marty McFly home didn’t have the HD or 3D capabilities that are a must for the flat screens that many of us have.
  • Holomax movies: Best represented by the holographic shark used to advertise Jaws 19, these Holomax movies promised advanced jaws 19holographic technology with our movies. Clearly, we don’t have that but 3D is now a common feature of big-budget spectacles as well as the super huge IMAX screens. As for Jaws, that franchise remains underwater in the 1980s.
  • TV glasses: Marty’s daughter, Marlene (also played by Michael J. Fox) was seen in the film donning a pair of sunglasses that let her watch TV and answer phone calls. That is one thing Back to the Future, Part II did get correct since Google Glass and similar smart devices have those features and more.
  • Rehydrators: Remember when Grandma (Lea Thompson) brought over a tiny pizza pie that she placed in a contraption that grew the food into a normal size meal? Sounds convenient (albeit unappetizing), but the tech doesn’t exist. But fear not, 3D printers can produce food, so very soon we will have a variation of the rehydrator.
  • Rejuvenation treatments: Prior to the film, Doc Brown underwent a supposed rejuvenation treatment that added years to his life (don’t worry Marty, we didn’t notice the difference either), as for reality: botox anyone?
  • Mr. Fusion: This little household mr fusiondevice (that was mounted on the DeLorean and used garbage as fuel) is probably the answer to our energy problems if only we didn’t have to worry about the fact that it’s basically a small nuclear reactor. How safe is such a thing? Imagine nuts, terrorists and other malcontents trying to use Mr. Fusion as a weapon. Perhaps if we embrace nuclear power and can ensure that it’s 100% safe to use, such a device can be invented way down the line. But we’re talking decades from now at the best.
  • Cubs, lawyers and weather: Some of the funniest moments in the movie are that in 2015 lawyers are abolished, which ensures a faster justice system (as if lawyers and politicians will ever let that happen), the Chicago Cubs win the World Series (the baseball team has a few months to either prove or disprove that notion, but there is a baseball team in Miami, only they’re called the Marlins), and that the weather can be accurately predicted to the minute (given what we know about the weather variables, that is highly unlikely).

Waldermann Rivera

 

 

Top 10 Utopian Films

Star Trek future London

One of the niftiest things about sci-fi films are the eye-popping portraits of the future. Most recently, audiences were floored by the breathtaking futuristic cityscapes seen in Star Trek Into Darkness. Keep in mind, that for dramatic reasons, things may not be perfect in these futuristic utopias. In fact, sometimes with these paradises there are significant drawbacks about them and the cost of paradise is often steep. Still, from flying cars to robotic servants, these films best showed how humanity can create a future to strive for.

Buck Rogers in the 25th century10. Buck Rogers In The 25th Century: A utopian vision inspired by late ’70s deco! The pilot for the TV show was shown in theaters before the proper series started. Tackiness takes on a new meaning in this future society with wise-cracking robots, skin-tight outfits and cheesy sets. But thanks to unfrozen astronaut Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard), things like disco, basic military tactics and boogying down make a comeback!

9. Gattaca: Imagine a future with Gattacamodern architecture from the 1950s, turbine cars and where you get all the social and employment opportunities just for being you. Yes, you can live out your dreams…as long as you’re genetically pure. It’s a haven for the one-percenters. For the rest of us created the old fashioned way, well, we’re shit out of luck. But that doesn’t stop Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) from achieving his dreams in this tech noir thriller by passing himself off as one of the genetically pure.

I Robot8. TIE: I, Robot/Bicentennial Man: Both films dealt with the nature of evolving androids in the future. They featured sprawling and impressive skylines, servant androids, and nifty, futuristic vehicles. In lots of ways, life is the same as it is today in the films except with the technological advances. Life isn’t perfect and androids and robots must grapple with their civil rights. This is dramatically shown in I, Robot where the robots attempt a takeover. But overall, the futures in those films seem enjoyable.

Logan's Run apartment

7. Logan’s Run: More cheesy, ’70s-based, sci-fi trappings! Humanity’s remnants live in an underground city connected by a rail system, making it all look like something from Disney World’s Tomorrowland. In Logan’s (Michael York) futuristic society, life is pleasant and hedonistic with casual sex and drug use. No one has any cares except for their looks. The only drawback is that once you reach your thirtieth birthday, you’re euthanized.

6. Demolition Man: Welcome to San Angeles, a city rebuilt from Demoliton Man on patrolthe ashes of Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara. Along with clean streets and civil order, Taco Bell is the winner of the Franchise Wars and courteous behavior is strictly enforced. Also, crime is so rare that when a master criminal from our present (Wesley Snipes) is thawed out he creates chaos since cops in the future can’t cope. Enter John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone), a roguish policeman from the same time period, who is also unfrozen in order to stop him.

meet the robinsons5. Meet The Robinsons: Young inventor Lewis time travels to the year 2037, which is a time period heavily influenced by Tomorrowland. There, he meets the wacky titular family and contends with a mysterious villain from his past. Lewis also experiences a colorful world filled with curvy skyscrapers, genetically enhanced frogs, flying bubble cars, robots and even cloned dinosaurs. It’s a bit like The Jetsons, but much cooler looking.

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Unfortunately, most of the nifty innovations and tech showcased in that monumental 2001 part 2film weren’t available by the time the actual year of 2001 came along. That year would’ve been better if we had some of the inspiring developments depicted in Kubrick’s masterpiece like space planes, commonplace space travel, a moon base, and super-advanced AIs. On second thought, we’re probably better off without the super smart and neurotic AIs like HAL 9000.

Minority Report

3. Minority Report: Director Steven Spielberg worked with futurists to create a believable and probable future stocked with stupendous technologies and inventions. Sure we have no privacy and eroded civil rights in Washington, D.C., circa 2052 thanks to the PreCrimes police force led by Jon Anderson (Tom Cruise). But take a gander at Minority Report’s amazing depictions of the future. Personalized holograms for customers in stores, electronic papers, glass-based computers, jetpacks, and robotically controlled cars that can scale walls. It all makes that future seem bearable to live in.

Hill Valley BTTF Future

2. Back To The Future, Part II: What’s not to love about the optimistic future seen in this follow up to the first Back To The Future? Start with the cool-looking flying cars that clog skyways. You can convert your old cars to fly for just $39,999.95; it’s a steal! Next move on to dehydrators, holofilms, dust repellant paper, and hoverboards by Mattel (just avoid using them over water. All these innovations were part of a whimsical look at Hill Valley, CA, circa 2015. Even the clothing is uber cool–power Nikes with auto laces and jackets that adjust to your size! Worried about crime? No need to, with lawyers being abolished, justice is swift and efficient. Just watch out for those tranks, lobos and zipheads!

Starbase 11. Star Trek films Beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture and continuing most recently with Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek films have shown audiences pleasant and sometimes astounding images of our future. From Earth all the way to deep in the galaxy, humans have made san franciscoincredible social and technological advances. Gone are war, disease and poverty. Innovations like faster-than-light space travel, transporters, replicators and holodecks enrich humanity. The Star Trek films also displayed an Earth in the 23rd and 24th centuries that look clean and pristine. Take a look at the dazzling cityscapes of London and San Francisco in the latest Star Trek film. They set the bar for breathtaking and enviable views of the future. Of course, humans have to deal with Klingons, Borg and other alien bad guys. But with the likes of James T. Kirk (William Shatner, Chris Pine) and Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), humanity can breathe easier. 😀

Lewis T. Grove