At Last, Flying Cars!
As 2006 dawned, I couldn't help but notice a distinct lack of flying cars. Naturally, this was disappointing, as programs such as The Jetsons had led us to believe such vehicles were part of "the future" and the passing of another year was a reminder that this nifty convenience was still not available.
Granted, they're not available now either, but it turns out while I was complaining, someone was hard at work actually inventing them. Carl Dietrich, a 29 year-old doctoral candidate at MIT's Aeronautics and Astronautics program, has been awarded a $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for several inventions, including "Transition", an SUV-sized "Personal Air Vehicle concept" designed to take advantage of underused public-access airports and give people who need to travel 100-500 miles a new option. While Dietrich envisions an SUV-sized vehicle, he says using premium unleaded fuel, it "will be able to fly at 120 miles per hour with better fuel economy than most cars".
The Transition's estimated price is $148,000. At least a light sport's pilot's license will be required to fly the Transition (and that costs about $3,500). Naturally, a regular driver's license is required as well. The vehicles will be designed for a driver and one passenger... There will be no air conditioning, but there will be heat.
Part of Dietrich's prize money is going toward Terrafugia (it's Latin for "escape from the earth"), which will sell the Transition. There's a mailing list, though it's not a "waiting list".
Dietrich says "The Jetsons were always a little too far off". "Despite the fact that I'm working on a flying car, I've always been a pretty practical guy." In their defense, I'd like to point out that the program was a cartoon -- an animated depiction of the future, episodes of which were created decades ago. The poor bloke might be taking a fair amount of ribbing over the flying car thing at the local inventors' pub (I like to think there is one). He might want to make himself seem less whimsical than he is. Inventing seems like a fairly creative activity to me, and anyone who's invented a flying car must be a tad whimsical.
The Jetsons Theme (available on Television's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1: From the 50's and 60's)