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Flying cars: the race for the skies

Volkswagen are the latest company to explore potential technology

In Back to the Future, Doc Emmett Brown, Marty McFly and Jennifer Parker jumped into the DeLorean to time travel from 26 October 1985 to 21 October 2015. When Marty says there’s not enough road to reach the required speed of 88mph, it was here where the Doc uttered the iconic words as the DeLorean prepared for take off: “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”

More than five years on from that fictional date, flying cars have yet to become a normal mode of transport. But manufacturers are working on it.

VW explores flying cars in China

Recent advances in automotive technology has led to rapid progress in electric vehicles and autonomous driving. The next step for car companies is “vertical mobility”. 

Volkswagen has joined a growing number of firms looking into the potential of flying cars and is conducting a feasibility study in China, Reuters reports. 

“Beyond autonomous driving the concept of vertical mobility could be a next step to take our mobility approach into the future,” especially in China, the German company said in a statement. “Therefore we are investigating potential concepts and partners in a feasibility study to identify the possibility to industrialise this approach.”

An F1 car for the skies

Flying cars may be a futuristic concept, but they do already exist in the form of commercial jetpacks, flying motorbikes and personal air taxis. 

The “autonomous urban aircraft market is still a bit of a Wild West”, the BBC says, but there are dozens of companies competing to launch products. The broadcaster added: “Flying cars are real - and they could shape how we commute, work and live in the coming decades.” 

While flying cars may sound far-fetched, new lightweight materials, better batteries, and sophisticated computer controls means these visions aren’t unrealistic, Wired reported.

One company that is developing flying cars/small aircraft is DeLorean Aerospace. Launched in 2012 by Paul DeLorean, nephew of John DeLorean, the founder of the company whose car starred in the Back to the Future films, the company’s ambition is to develop a real life flying car.

One such model is the DeLorean Aerospace DR-7, which is “built like a Formula One race car… for the sky”. The DR-7 will be a twin forward and rear tilt propeller flying car developed for personal use and will be capable of vertical take-off and landing, says the Vertical Flight Society

Other companies pursuing plans include Uber, Airbus, Kitty Hawk, Joby, Lilium, and Volocopter. In November Lilium said it would set up its first US hub near Orlando, “putting more than 20 million Floridians within range of its winged electric aircraft that can take off vertically and cover 300km (185 miles)”, Reuters reports.

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