Self-driving flying car to take off in two years

The hybrid electric flying car that’s been a dream for so long is finally taking shape. Terrafugia announced that they expect to have a prototype for their computer-controlled electric aerial vehicle called the TF-X released within two years.

The company says a full-sized prototype of the TF-X will be ready by 2018, and a model retailing for around $260,000 should be out before 2028, the Daily Mail reported.

If that seems like forever, consider the timeline for Terrafugia’s first vehicle, a two-seater that runs on regular gasoline called the Transition. As Engadget’s Richard Lawler pointed out last year, the second-generation Transition prototype logged more than 100 hours in the air, but key hurdles remain. This latest version still needs meet automotive crash safety standards, and meet the FAA’s weight limit for Light-Sport Aircraft.

The TF-X design is even more complex. The idea is for the four-seat hybrid electric vehicle to have computer-controlled flight. After driving the TF-X out of the garage, twin propellers unfold and a megawatt of power lifts the vehicle up.

Rather than gasoline, a 300-horsepower engine will recharge the vehicle’s batteries and give it a nonstop 500-mile flight range. The goal is to have cruising speeds around 200 miles per hour. It can also be recharged electrically on the ground.

Plug-In Hybrid Vehicle Has Wings

All the automation has to be foolproof, too. The company wants operating a TF-X to be safer than driving a regular car. In the air, the vehicle should automatically avoid other aircraft, bad weather, and restricted airspace. Operators can either use manual or automatic control to fly. And an emergency landing sequence would go into effect if the operator becomes unresponsive.

Currently a one-tenth size model is being tested in the Wright Brothers wind tunnel at MIT, according to the Daily Mail. While we wait for the full-sized prototype, here’s what the TF-X could look like:

The Massachusetts-based company has had a special place in my heart ever since I interviewed Terrfugia co-founder and CEO Carl Dietrich about the Transition’s maiden flight for Discovery back in 2009 (video).

At that point, Dietrich preferred to call it a street legal airplane. Since then, the company has fully embraced the flying car moniker. The language might have changed, but the goal to have a safe, environmentally friendly flying car hasn’t. With so much at stake, we can afford to be patient.

 

By Alyssa Danigelis

(Source:  discovery.com; February 23, 2016; http://tinyurl.com/hvkkdyf)

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