In nearly every fictional representation of the future, people are getting around not on four wheels, but on two wings. Flying cars are the epitome of sci-fi cool, and many people remain disappointed that such products are not widely available. These people have either never seen drivers or are imagining driving a flying car after some catastrophe has wiped out most of America’s population. Flying cars are a terrible idea, and they will never see the light of day.
Logistically, anything resembling a car would be difficult to put in the air. Cars are flat on the bottom, and flat surfaces tend to create problems for a vehicle which hangs in the air through drag differential, like a modern jet. Building a flying car more like a helicopter would make them slightly slower than current cars. The fastest helicopter has reached a speed of 293 miles per hour. The current land speed record is nearly three times that, at 760 miles per hour. Making cars more like helicopters would be a step back in speed and efficiency.
The most practical sort of flying car, then, would be something more like a personal plane. These would be considerably smaller than commercial airliners, making them more prone to turbulence and capable of covering shorter distances. These planes would be less comfortable and less useful than the current system of bus-like airplanes. Such a development would also be catastrophic for human life.
Average human drivers have difficulty navigating in two dimensions. In fact, per-mile, driving is the most dangerous form of transportation. This is for two reasons. First, no driver has to file a travel plan with a team of trained logistics personnel before taking a road trip. No one is cross checking the traffic patterns of cars to make sure that only a certain number are occupying a certain space at a certain time. Flying cars would either require a tremendous advance in human and computer intelligence to manage hundreds of thousands of flights, or deal with a world in which rush hour traffic is airborne and can’t stop.
Second, no driver has to go through the training that a professional pilot does. Managing the wide variety of instruments and controls required in a modern airliner takes several years. Imagine the terror every time someone turned 16, knowing that their fiddling with the radio in flight would result not in scratched paint and hurt feelings, but in free fall followed by a painful, deadly contact with the ground.
For the freedom of flight, there’s no alternative to the airplane. For convenience of transportation, there’s no alternative to the car. This is not a peanut butter and chocolate situation. This is a catastrophe waiting to happen. Keep cars on the ground!