A Look Back and Forward at the Flying Car

With talks of cars being airborne in the next five years it's time to take a look back (and forward) at how we managed to be on the verge of stealing science fiction's thunder (again).

What do the Jetsons and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang have in common? They both involve flying cars – a concept that’s nothing new in Hollywood. But these contraptions are not just a fantasy; in fact, for over a hundred years, we have been trying to get cars off of the ground.

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There was even a patent for such a vehicle as early as 1841, but many of these underdeveloped cars didn’t fly. It wasn’t until 1934 when a flying car called the Arrowbile actually cruised in the sky. But it didn’t go nearly as far as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang could, and its high cost and bulkiness were not practical for the average consumer. So even though it flew, the overall concept still crashed and burned.

A picture of the Maverick flying car in development by w:I-TEC. Image Source: Tory Townsend – http://itecusa.org/images/IMG_4806.JPG

Inventors continued to obsess over designing a car that could transport passengers on both land and in the air, and throughout the 1900s, some of these cars worked (to some degree) and had the potential to make a Jetson-like car into a reality. But getting an automobile into the air is only half of the battle, and many of the early, successful flying vehicles never made it to the masses due to politics, safety issues, and finances.

A lot of flying cars have been tested since. And today there are still a lot of companies experimenting with how to get one on the market. One such company that attempted this feat happens to be Uber with hopes of rolling out their flying taxi service soon. And according to Tesla designer, Elon Musk, the Tesla Model F is preparing for its debut in 2019. And that’s not all, Dubai is currently creating taxis for lift off too. Does this mean that we will see a highway in the sky in our future? Or are everyday flying cars just a Sci-Fi lovers dream?

Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe sedan – Harry Potter Flying Car. This is one of the original cars used in the making of the movie “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”, on display at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum. Image Source: sv1ambo on Flickr

Can you believe that an idea for a car in the sky received a patent in 1841? John Stringfellow and William Samuel had a vision for a very basic flying car that would have a wingspan of 150 feet, and wheels and a motors. They went so far as to patent their idea but were never able to fully execute an actual product. Bummer, if they had continued to brainstorm, maybe we all could take a shortcut home through the clouds.

Similarly, Glenn Curtiss promoted his Auto Plane of 1917 at the Pan Am Aeronautical Exposition. Standing at only 10 ft, it looked like a small hummer limousine with all the flying characteristics of an old Wright plane. The futuristic car had a propellor (that could be used on land and in the air), an aluminum body, and plastic windows.