Do a Google search on “flying car” today and up will pop a picture of a vehicle that is indeed flying but looks more like a cross between a pontoon boat and a drone than a car. That’s not surprising since Google founder and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) CEO Larry Page just unveiled the Kitty Hawk Flyer, an auspiciously named vehicle he claims will be available for sale in 2017. What will the first buyers get, Larry?
We’ve all had dreams of flying effortlessly. I’m excited that one day very soon I’ll be able to climb onto my Kitty Hawk Flyer for a quick and easy personal flight.
“Personal flight” is a code phrase that usually means “one-seater.” A tweet this week by Kitty Hawk President and future technology guru Sebastian Thrun included a link to Kitty Hawk's website showing the first video of a prototype of an electric Kitty Hawk Flyer flying. The lightweight (100 kg/220 lb) vehicle starts with a drone-like platform where eight electric-powered rotors are mounted. Those rotors will noisily lift the Flyer 10 meters (32 feet) off the ground and help reach its top speed of 25 mph (40 kmph). The “seat” looks like a motorcycle or jet-ski frame with handlebar controls for power and steering. Underneath are pontoons that give you a hint this is not a flying “car” for lifting you over urban potholes.
Although the test flight in the video is over a lake in California (a hint to what Silicon Valley gurus are expecting next from climate change?), the website assures that the Kitty Hawk Flyer is "safe, tested, and legal to operate in the US" in "uncongested areas" and the operator doesn’t need a pilot's license. However, aerospace engineer and Kitty Hawk Flyer pilot (because you can’t drive it) Cameron Robertson adds the caveat that the next version will be much better and quieter.
We hope that this is more of an exciting concept than what most people have had in their minds about flying cars. This is not yet that product in terms of what we will say and what it can do, but I think it demonstrates a vision of the future.
Well then, why would anyone pay $100 for a waiting list spot and a $2,000 future discount on a yet-unpriced flying vehicle that won’t look anything like what Larry Page is already bragging about? Just ask any Silicon Valley billionaire or entrepreneur like Brad Templeton, a consultant on the project. .
I love the idea of being able to go out into my backyard and hop into my flying car. I hate the idea of my next-door neighbor having one.
That’s right. Keeping up with the Pages, Zuckerbergs, Ellisons and Musks is the main goal of all Silicon Valley boys (and despite the appearance of women in the video, they're almost all boys). That’s obviously more important that owning a real flying car like the one from AeroMobil unveiled recently in Monaco or the VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) vehicle being hinted at by Uber.
In the meantime, whether you're uber-rich, an Uber rider or driving a beater ... we’re all still stuck on the ground in rush hour traffic waiting for a real flying car.