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Where’s My Flying Car? The Lowdown on Personal Flight

Light traffic.

Light traffic.

Source: EHang


From “Brave New World” to “Blade Runner,” the dream of flying above traffic jams in personal aircraft has a rich history. Now that autonomous vehicles are being tested, it’s natural to ask: Are flying cars next? Jetsons-style family flight is probably decades away, but air taxis could be in wide use by 2030.

Essentially, take a hobbyists’ drone and enlarge it to hold half a dozen people. Now under development, they take off and land vertically like helicopters but unlike those vehicles, they have several motors, each with a propeller, powered by electricity instead of a single internal combustion engine that turns a large rotor. Called eVTOLs for electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, some have propellers that tilt to provide forward thrust, boosting speed and efficiency. They’re being designed to be lighter, quieter, more environmentally friendly and -- crucially -- less expensive to operate than choppers. A 40-minute helicopter trip from New York City to the Hamptons beaches runs about $600. An air-taxi ride would have to be much cheaper to gain traction.