Another day, another self-flying car pipe dream surfaces

Today it's Audi, complete with a 49" face-recognising screen

Comment Audi and Airbus are pondering a self-driving car that can also fly, according to the latest Ripley* statement from a hype-filled sector.

The "entirely electric, fully automatic concept" of a "horizontal and vertical mobility" vehicle is just a pipe dream for now, though it might pave the way for a tangible product much, much later down the line.

"The ultra-light, two-seater passenger cabin can be attached either to a car module or to a flight module. Audi is supporting the project with know-how on battery technology and automation," gurgles the Audi statement.

Apparently the most noteworthy part of this thing is not the self-driving software's capabilities, or integration with existing airspace management procedures for aircraft, but "a 49-inch [1.2m] screen" featuring "speech and face recognition, eye-tracking and a touch function". Confidence-inspiring, eh?

The flying car concept is as old as the history of mechanically propelled vehicles and heavier-than-air fixed-wing flight – that is, all the way back to 1841, if Popular Mechanics is to be believed. Many have tried, some have achieved, but none gained mass-market acceptance.

As chronicled here on El Reg, the main thing blocking the adoption of flying ground vehicles is the requirement for pilot training and a pilot licence. Regulatory systems for aviation are designed with traditional aircraft in mind, and training courses for pilots' licences have a mandatory minimum number of hours of instruction and flying before the licence is granted. Current estimates of the total cost of a private pilot's licence (which does not entitle the holder to fly people for business purposes) are just short of £10,000.

The future of the market seems to be in B2B self-flying vehicles where the licensing costs can be recouped by the business, as Larry Page-backed Kitty Hawk is betting on. That, at least, is currently going through flight trials and features a tangible, operational product.


* Ripley's Believe it or Not franchise used to be a popular London tourist attraction.

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