A new model of flying car could make flying as easy and safe as driving on the ground - with an autopilot “steering”, and a full-vehicle parachute for when things go wrong.
The Terrafugia TF-X will also be able to take off vertically - meaning that, in theory, drivers will be able to lift off direct from their homes.
The vehicle is partially electric-powered, has helicopter-style rotors, and predicted to cost around the price of a luxury car once it is in full production.
The car will carry four travelers and will have a range of 500 miles, with advanced autopilot systems which will steer it out of the way of planes and other obstacles.
Its makers claim it will be "statistically safer" than driving a car.
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It will be able to take off vertically as long as it’s parked in a level clearing with around 100ft of room.
It takes off using helicopter-style rotors built into the wings. The vehicle is a hybrid, and relies on electric motors on the ground, and to assist during take-off. In the air, it will use liquid aviation fuel.
It is still not clear what the legal status of such vehicles would be in the UK, whether in the air, or on the ground.
A “sister” model from the same company, the Transition, could be on sale in 2015, the company claims - but requires a runway to take off, and will cost £190,000.
The Transition has already completed a successful test flight, flying for eight minutes at 8,000 feet.
Earlier models have had top speeds of 115mph in the air, and 62mph on the ground. Prototypes have been shown off at car shows over the past few years.
The new model has been built for safety first, and will have automated systems built to ensure it can take off and land safely.
The aircraft will operate at low levels - below 18,000ft, around half the altitude of long-haul flights.
“Operating a TF-X vehicle should be statistically safer than driving a modern automobile,” the company says. “The Terraugia vehicles will be capable of automatically avoiding other air traffic, bad weather, and restricted and tower-controlled airspace. It will have a backup full-vehicle parachute system which can be activated by the operator in an emergency if it is incapable of auto-landing.”
The company says that the TF-X will take eight to ten years to develop. Customers who buy a Transition will be “first in line” for the new model, the company said.
“It is the practical realisation of the dream of countless visions of the future; it is designed to be the flying car for all of us,” said the company this week. “Terrafugia will focus on the safety, simplicity, and convenience of personal transportation. We believe these goals are achievable today.”