If you build a flying car, will they come?
Flying cars have been a sci-fi promise for decades, and we’re hearing that they may be a reality soon. Maybe. But are consumers really waiting with bated breath for a flying car? Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan’s Sustainable Worldwide Transportation group surveyed 508 Americans online in April 2017 to find out what people think of this sci-fi dream becoming reality. TL;DR: Yeah, we’re into flying cars.
The respondents were pretty evenly split between male and female, and the age ranges were pretty even from 18 to over 60 years of age. Men were far more likely to be familiar with the idea of flying cars (53 percent versus 78 percent), but about two-thirds of every age group was aware of the concept.
The number-one benefit people imagined for flying cars was shorter travel time, which is a no-brainer. But the people polled were not expecting pie in the sky; more than 8 in 10 were moderately or very concerned about the safety of flying cars. They thought it might not be too hard to learn to use a flying car, with 63 percent being concerned about it. But again, not fools — 75 percent of people wanted a parachute for the vehicle as a whole.
People were very demanding of the technology, however. Most respondents wanted their flying car to plug into the wall to refuel. And nearly half thought a flying car should be able to go about 400 miles before needing to fuel up again, which is more than the range of most modern electric vehicles but a typical range for modern gasoline-powered cars with wheels instead of wings. Not that people wanted wings; they actually preferred the idea of taking off straight up, like a helicopter, rather than needing a runway.
Interestingly, people were a little more interested in a flying autonomous car that would pick them up and take them somewhere rather than having to own, operate and insure their very own flying cars. But if they had to pay for a flying car, most people thought $100,000 to $200,000 seemed reasonable, which is the price of many luxury and super cars.
So, manufacturers, just build shared autonomous electric flying cars with parachutes for less than the price of a new Bentley Continental GT. We’re waiting.