Did you see the headlines this week promising that AeroMobil would be making flying cars available for purchase in 2023? That’s just two years from now, if you can believe it. The company’s latest video even ends with the optimistic words, “coming 2023.” But can they pull it off? Let’s just say we’ve been hearing that their flying cars are just “two years away” for a very long time.
AeroMobil, based in Slovakia, first started to get widespread attention in the English-language press back in 2014 as “Europe’s first flying car,” and the first “fully functional flying car,” that was somehow better than futuristic autonomous cars stuck on the road, according to Venture Beat. And it didn’t take long for the promises to start.
In 2015, Design News ran with the headline, “AeroMobil Says it Will Put a Flying Car on the Market in 2 Years.” Needless to say, the car wasn’t released in 2017. Then, in May of 2015, the AeroMobil crashed during a test flight. But that didn’t stop the headlines from starting up again soon after.
In 2017, Mashable wrote of the AeroMobil, “Here’s a flying car you will actually be able to buy this year.” But other sites were a bit more cautious. Business Insider published the headline, “A startup’s $US1 ($1) million flying car is officially rolling out to buyers in 2020.” If you don’t have a calendar nearby, we’re currently well into the year 2021. And yet, we’re still seeing headlines from websites like Mashable, which recently promised that people would be able to buy an AeroMobil flying car by 2023.
It’s not just AeroMobil that’s having trouble getting off the ground. Other flying car companies share the same problems about making an airworthy vehicle that you can also drive. Uber recently gave up on its promises of delivering taxis in the sky, selling their Uber Elevate division. And Terrafugia was purchased in 2018 by a Chinese company called Zhejiang Geely Holding Group, despite promising since 2008 that flying cars were just two years away.
There are a number of reasons that flying cars aren’t commonplace yet — a frequent promise of the 1950s and 60s, to say nothing of the 1920s. The first problem with flying cars is one of government approvals. Government agencies like the FAA need to certify vehicles as both safe for the road and safe for flying. Once you’ve figured that part out, you need to sell the vehicle to people who know how to drive (very common) and how to fly (far less common). And you need to find people willing to pay a large premium for the technology.
After you’ve figured out all of those things, you need it to make sense for these flying car owners in terms of getting from Point A to Point B. That’s much easier if your vehicle is VTOL, meaning that you can takeoff vertically without a runway. But even if you have a landing pad at both your home and your workplace, what happens when you want to swing by the grocery store on the way home? The logistics become obnoxious pretty quickly.
In 2015, I promised to literally eat the sun if the AeroMobil flying car was released by 2017, as the company was promising. And quite frankly, I’m not sure how to up the ante at this point.
Maybe I can promise to eat the Moon? That sounds easier than the sun, though, and kind of defeats the purpose. Maybe I can wager to eat a planet. What would be the hardest planet to eat? I promise to literally eat Planet 9 if the AeroMobil is released by 2023.
There are simply too many hurdles for this flying car to become a feasible commercial reality anytime soon. And while I’m optimistic that autonomous flying vehicles will eventually become real for passengers in the 21st century, since taking away the pilot solves quite a few of the problems mentioned above, the promises of AeroMobil here in 2021 simply seem like vaporware.