2022 and the Future of Transportation
Did you ever wonder what the future will look like?
Robot waiters serving you at your local eatery…. Cars driving on their own while you doze in the front seat…. Communities living on Mars…. People becoming invisible at will….
For years, scientists, writers, and people like you have been envisioning the world of the future. As the years march on, many things they’ve imagined became reality — microwaves heat up food in an instant, robots assist in medical procedures, and scientists orbit earth in a space station.
But one vision that has yet to become reality is the flying car.
November 7, 1946.
On the streets of Queens, crowds waited in anticipation. Necks craned skyward, but all they could see was the vast expanse of blue sky dotted by an occasional cloud.
Would he make it?
No one knew.
The roar of an engine was heard in the distance. The crowd grew silent as the steel body of the small aircraft glided across the skies.
It was the Airphibian, the world’s first certified flying car, and it captured the imaginations of thousands. With technology advancing at a dizzying pace, could a car fly?
Robert Fulton, Amphibian’s pilot and inventor, landed, stepped out of the aircraft, and waved to the crowds. Then he smoothly detached the wings and drove off, navigating the streets of New York.
And the world was left wondering. Could this be the beginning of a new era?
But by 1954, Robert Fulton’s company went bankrupt. Creating a flying car proved to be too complicated and expensive. The possibility of a flying car became more remote than ever.
Why Is It So Complicated?
Take a car, add some wings and an airplane engine, and presto! You have a flying car, right? Wrong. Cars and airplanes have vastly different designs and functions. In order to create a flying vehicle that can be sold to the public, developers need to resolve a number of issues.
1 How will a flying car take off and land?
Traffic is bumper-to-bumper, and you’re getting impatient. Don’t fret — all the driver needs to do is pull a lever and your car will rise into the clouds. But many flying car models need a runway, which means that drivers will have to travel to an airport or runway for takeoff and landing. And that takes away half of the appeal!
Practically: Developers are hoping to create an aircraft that has vertical takeoff and land (VTOL), which means it would not require a runway.
2 Will everyone need to become a pilot?
Sure, you can fly a car. But you’ll need to have a driving license… and a pilot’s license! Most unveiled flying car models required a pilot to navigate them. Getting a pilot’s license is expensive and time consuming. Most drivers are not interested in learning a fresh set of driving rules in order to fly a car.
Practically: A practical flying car will need to be autonomous, which means it can fly on its own.
3 How will we deal with air traffic?
The pilot circled impatiently as he waited for a response to come in. Finally, his radio crackled to life. “G-REMS, you’re cleared to land.”
This is how our air traffic control works today. Planes wait for clearance before takeoff and landing and take instructions from air traffic control on what altitude to fly. But will the air traffic control system be able to handle all those flying cars? And how will a driver navigate hundreds of other flying cars and huge commercial jets?
This still leaves air traffic controllers scratching their heads. Perhaps we will have different altitudes for different directions and speeds. That way, you won’t swerve around a driver gliding through the skies when you’re trying to get to work on time, or crash into a jumbo jet that’s coming straight at you.
We also want to make sure that people on the ground are not affected by the cars flying above them. It would make sense to have a “speeding lane” higher up in the sky so that the speeding cars wouldn’t create strong winds for the people down on earth.
Practically: Air traffic control needs to be updated and new systems put in place before we can deal with flying cars.
FLYING CAR MODELS
People’s wild ideas become reality — but can these cars really take flight? Although these models are not yet available to the public, the developers are hoping these cars will be flying our skies very soon.
True to its name, the transition can transform from a plane to a car in just a minute. The wings of the aircraft fold up on the sides for road travel and garage storage. This two-seater vehicle requires a pilot, but can fit another passenger as well.
The downside, the Terrafugia doesn’t function as a great car. It can only drive up to 70 miles per hour. (No speeding tickets with this one!) It also needs a runway, which makes it impractical for everyday use. But although Terrafugia planned to have all US certification by 2022, the company recently closed down its American base and moved to China. Rumor has it that it will be easier for them to certify the car for Chinese use. So it looks like we can say goodbye to the hope of flying the Terrafugia in the near future.
Now available for preorder at $119,000!
Imagine paragliding with your car. That’s exactly what the Parajet Skycar is all about. The Parajet is similar to an ATV and can drive on any terrain. With a run-up of 650 feet, you can convert it to a gliding aircraft in just under three minutes. As you speed up your car, you can release the parachute from the back with a simple lever and the car takes flight!
So why not fly the Parajet?
Well, for starters, it has no doors. Although you’ll be buckled in real tight, you won’t be protected from the frigid temperatures at high altitude. This car model is also not a proper flying car because it glides rather than flies. Practically speaking, the Parajet doesn’t look like it will win the Car of the Future Award.
Models range from $399,000 to $599,000
Of all the models, this one really might come around soon.
The persistent Pal-V developers refuse to give up despite the obstacles they face in getting the Pal-V certified for both road and air. The unique looking car has three wheels and rotors on top that are powered by the wind. This enables the vehicle to take off and land without needing too much space. When on the road, the rotors fold down and rest on top of the car. The Pal-V is small enough to fit into any parking spot or garage and has been approved for road usage. CEO Robert Dingemanse was hoping they’d have air certification by the end of 2021….
The Pal-V is not autonomous, so you’d need to be a pilot in order to operate the flying car.
Xpeng, Unnamed Vehicle
Xpeng, a company in China, developed a super-cool car model… except it’s in theory only. The vehicle is designed to have two foldable arms with helicopter-like propellers, so the car can take off and land vertically without needing a runway. The wings fold into a compartment inside the body of the car, creating a sleek road car. The car will also be equipped with a parachute in case of an accident. The Xpeng’s car has not been named yet and has never been developed, but the company was hoping to release the car for purchase by 2024. Do you think you’ll be seeing it anytime soon? Time will tell.
A Secret Project Going Live — The Autonomous Road Car and Its Developers
Tucked away in Mountain View, California, frenzied action takes place in a secret research facility. At a small table, a few scientists pore over a diagram.
The youngest one sighs and puts down his thick marker. “It’s impossible. A car just needs a driver.”
At the word “impossible,” the room explodes.
“It may be radical,” says one man, “but never impossible.”
“We’ll tackle this,” says another. “We’re going to create the world’s safest driver. And for that, we need to take the human out of the driver’s seat.”
The young scientist steps back from the diagram, and the others charge in. They are determined to build this car, and as usual at X, nothing stops them.
That’s because X, a research facility created by Google, is in the business of chasing moon shots.
What are moon shots?
Just like John F. Kennedy aimed to get man to the moon when that had never been done before, employees at X aim to “shoot for the moon” and develop technology and solutions that seem impossible. In 2009, they began with their first project — creating an autonomous car.
What’s wrong with people driving cars you ask?
Well, millions of accidents happen every year because of simple human error. The developers of the autonomous car hope that having a computer steer will avoid most accidents that occur. The car will use satellites, sensors, and robotic intelligence to understand where it is and how to avoid collisions. Recently, the car graduated X research facility and became a company of its own called Waymo. To date, they’ve launched an autonomous taxi service in Chandler, Arizona, where you can hop in a cab that has no driver. Waymo is slowly mapping out the streets in the rest of the US and are hoping to change the world of driving with a driver that never gets drunk, tired, or distracted. This technology may advance the development of flying cars, as autonomous driving, especially in the air, is important for a practical flying car.
Other Secret Projects That X Has Worked On
1 Everyday Robots
Imagine ordering a robot to clean up your room. Would he know where to put that new toy you just got for your birthday? How about the slippers that your sister left in your room? It’s hard (but not impossible!) to develop a robot that can deal with spaces that constantly change and unexpected events that happen in our everyday life. But that hasn’t stopped X from trying. They are currently working on a sophisticated robot that uses cameras, sensors, robotic hands, and programmed information to create a robot that interacts with a human environment.
Another X project was a drone delivery service. Sounds familiar? That’s because Wing became an independent company in 2012 and has been delivering by drone in the US, Finland, and Australia. Their drones fly to pick up the item and then cruise over to the delivery address and drop the item at the door. Cool!
Play the X Moon Shots Game and Be an X Developer!
Google’s X company has released a lot of its secret information. Want to chase moon shots, too? Discover their methods and maybe you can be the innovator of up-and-coming technology!
What do you need for a moon shot?
a huge problem that affects loads of people
up-and-coming technology that has potential
a solution that might sound impossible
Ready to play the Moon Shot game?
Here’s how it goes:
WHAT YOU’LL NEED: pen and paper
INSTRUCTIONS: You’re going to receive a problem card and a new technology card. Then, you have ten minutes to use your technology to come up with solutions to the problem. Jot down as many ideas as you can.
X reminds potential moon shotters not to deem an idea impossible. Jot down any solution that comes to mind — possible or impossible. You never know which bad idea can lead to a great one.
Think you can do it? Set your timer and begin!
Here are your two cards:
Reading is crucial for education and builds intelligence. Kids today do not read enough and are missing out on vital skills that they’ll need for life.
Machines and robots.
What kinds of solutions can you come up with? Remember — the wackier the better!
Your timer is up. Now look over your ideas. Which ones seem to be the strongest solution to the problem? Narrow your options down to the best one. Can it work?
It’s a Junior Contest!
Are you a true
Share your innovation with Jr.!
(And we might just share it with the world!)
Write two paragraphs — one explaining the issue and the other explaining how your device would solve the issue.
Illustrate a model of your innovation on paper or create a 3D model using any building material (Lego, blocks, Magna Tiles, clay, household items, etc.)
Send your essay and photo, including name, grade, and contact information, to
Junior@mishpacha.com by January 3.
If your solution can change the lives of thousands of kids out there, you may just be a winner!
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 891)
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