The Flying Car Has Been Almost Here for Nearly a Century

Have you ever found yourself running late, and absolutely needed to cut across a body of water to get there on time?

Enter the Kitty Hawk Flyer, an all-electric aircraft backed by Google co-founder Larry Page.

This is the “future of society” Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun says he wants to create. Apparently, that society involves hovercraft for moving quickly over freshwater.

The company hasn’t announced a retail price yet, but it is offering a $2,000 discount to those who sign up for $100, three-year memberships (which also include behind-the-scenes perks and access to a “passionate community of like-minded people“).

The company says in its product FAQ that flyers will begin to go on sale in 2017, but we’ve heard this before many times.

“Mark my words: a combination airplane and motorcar is coming,” Henry Ford said in 1940, over 10 years after his own failed foray into personal aviation with the “Model T of the Air.” In recent memory, a few more disappointments stand out.

Zee.Aero, Page’s other flying vehicle startup, remains mysteriously vague, but there are rumors that it’s been spotted in the wild as recently as last year. It applied for patent in 2013.

Terrafugia announced its “Transition” vehicle in February 2014 but claimed it saw “successful testing” since 2012. The company promised to start shipping in 2015, but here it is 2017 and where’s my flying car?

In October 2014, Slovakia-based AeroMobil also revealed plans for its flying car. At the time, CCO Stefan Vadocz told Motherboard that it would be “irresponsible” to announce a shipping date. But it continued to dangle the carrot with an announcement this week that the flying roadster will cost at least $1.3 million.

The Volocopter, which barely qualifies for the title “flying car” but is more like a drone in which two brave humans can ride, was announced in April 2016. It hasn’t even announced pre-sale window yet, but it is pursuing its own aviation category and is taking names for potential prospective buyers, eventually, so it can get started early, at a later date, in some form.

Any mention of flying car disappointments would be remiss to exclude the Moller M400 Skycar, a spectacular example of personal aviation gone awry. Moller International revealed plans as early as 2002, with the added edge of help from NASA alumni. It’s perpetually in the “operational prototype” stage, but even that is questionable, as it’s never achieved non-tethered flight. It did, however, go on auction on eBay and attempted an Indiegogo fundraising campaign. Founder Paul Moller claims he has no idea where one might get the money to do this sort of thing.

Would flying personal vehicles, if well-executed, be an incredible development in transportation technology? Hell yeah. Will we see them come to fruition anytime soon? To be determined.