Flying cars lift off in fight for the future

A to B: Future of transport could be the hyperloop (above) or flying cars like the TF-X (below).

Would you rather zoom through a vacuum at the speed of sound or soar through the air in your own car? The world’s most powerful entrepreneurs are battling to invent the future of transport.

Three titans of technology — Elon Musk, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, and Google’s Larry Page — are racing to revolutionise transport forever. Each take one of two sides: the hyperloop or the flying car.

Flying cars have been “just around the corner” for decades, but none has ever made it into production. But this may be changing. This week Google unveiled their Cora “flying taxis” in New Zealand. While still in their development phase, they could be available to the public within three years.

Musk proposes a radically different idea: the hyperloop. The hyperloop involves pods travelling down a tube very, very quickly. The tube, which would likely be below ground, is almost empty of air, decreasing resistance. The pods levitate, removing friction. In theory, this lets them reach 760 mph — almost the speed of sound.

Uber is also pushing flying cars with its Elevate initiative. They would take off and land vertically, but fly horizontally. Drone technology has helped too: in January Chinese firm Ehang released footage of people riding in its passenger drone.

Musk’s hyperloop is more hare-brained — but it might be closer to reality. The project’s mass transit focus may make it more likely to garner support from politicians.

So which side are you cheering on?

Pipe dream

The hyperloop is the way to go, say some. It mixes the democracy of public transport with some of the most thrilling technology imaginable. Travelling at the speed of sound would cut out hours wasted on trains or aeroplanes, revolutionising the global economy.

Nonsense, reply others — how can you prefer the idea of speeding through a pitch black vacuum over soaring past mountains, around skyscrapers and into the clouds? Flying cars would give you ultimate freedom. They are the way forward.

You Decide

  1. Which would you rather became the future of transport: the hyperloop or the flying car?

Activities

  1. List all of the practical obstacles to the hyperloop and flying cars becoming mainstream forms of transport. Which has the most hurdles to overcome?

Some People Say...

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C. Clarke

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Out of all the most outlandish transport modes of the future, from hoverboards to magic carpets, the hyperloop and the flying car currently stand the greatest chance of becoming mainstream.
What do we not know?
Many people are still sure that nothing will ever come of this. The existence of technology does not mean that something comes into public use.

Word Watch

Flying taxis
The vehicles are self-piloted and can take off vertically. While known as “taxis”, they closely resemble drones or helicopters.
Below ground
All tests so far have been underground, but some engineers are hopeful that they could also be above ground, as that would be cheaper.
Decreasing resistance
This would also mean that it would need far, far less energy than an aeroplane travelling at a slightly slower speed.
Speed of sound
The speed of sound is 343 metres per second.
Passenger drone
Ehang’s drone has flown at 80 mph, climbed to 300 metres and operated in a storm. Many now believe that passenger drones are more likely to succeed than authentic flying cars.

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