Transforming cars that go from tearing up the tarmac to soaring through the skies at the touch of a button. It sounds like science fiction, but that might be the future we’re looking at, as America’s regulatory body for commercial flight and transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration, certified to test a bona fide flying car.
The vehicle — which has a flying range of around 177km on a full charge — is the brainchild of Alef Automotive, a Californian startup backed by high-profile venture capitalist Tim Draper (whose other seed investments include Tesla and SpaceX).
Dubbed the Model A, the vehicle has been in development since 2015. Its carbon-fibre body sports four propellers on each side, swivelling about the two-seater cockpit when the car takes flight.
Indeed, its ability to take off and land vertically — not unlike a helicopter — sets it apart from a few others of its ilk, as it doesn’t need a runway to get going. You could land it on a helipad or roof.
Not that you’d want to, seeing as how the two-seater can be driven on terra firma as well. Just don’t expect too much excitement behind the wheel, as the Model A’s special certification as a “low speed vehicle” limits its land speed to around 40 kmh (meaning you’d take about eight hours to wear out its battery driving).
While the car’s yet to receive approval in regards to tottering up and down Route 61, its certification for flight testing is a solid pit stop on its founders’ roadmap to deliver a fully functioning flying car by end-2025.
That’s not including the years of regulatory frameworks, transportation laws, and road — air? — etiquette that have to be dreamed up, taught, and relearned to make way for vehicles capable of traversing a three-dimensional space.
To put it simply, imagine an omnidirectional signal blinker for when you want to pitch up and yaw right, and then imagine a thousand other flying cars doing it during the evening rush.
In an interview with CNBC Make It, Alef CEO Jim Dukhovny said that he imagined that the car, for the most part, would stick firmly to the road, using its flying abilities only to hop over obstacles when needed.
He referenced “road conditions, weather, and infrastructure” as possible impediments to “the optimal path” that the Model A opens up, perhaps hoping that you and the blessed few with flying hybrid cars can scoot over downed bridges or traffic snarls.
We’ll wait and see. Until then, presales for the Model A are open. It is priced at USD$300,000 (S$404,000), with interested customers having to pay just USD$150 for a spot on the waiting list.
You could also wait for 2035’s Model Z, a four-seater sedan that the company intends to sell for just USD$35,000.