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Business

When Cars Can Fly

Nerds have long obsessed over flying cars. Now, multiple companies are on the brink of making their dream come true

1973's attempt at the flying car, the Mizar, wound up killing its inventor and pilot in test flights, photo: Creative Commons
By Caitlin Donohue Whatsapp Twitter Facebook Share
2 years ago

APPS & BOTS

On the surface, Google’s corporate headquarters, or “campus” as it’s collegiately referred to by its legions of employees, is the very model of openness. In stark opposition to the heavily guarded Facebook headquarters that lies seven miles north on California’s Highway 101, one need pass by no security desk to wander among the office buildings, enticing cafeterias and beach volleyball courts at Google. There is a fleet of primary-colored bikes that lie about, available to anyone who wishes to pedal to their next destination. It is a mystery how no one steals these things, but truth be told they are quite hideous.

But obviously, the world’s most high powered search engine, who owns all your information whether you like it or not, has its secrets.

One recently captured the tech world’s attention when it came to light. The gist is that Google co-founder Larry Page is funding a company dead set on creating flying cars.

In the nerd hierarchy of needs, the flying car is up there with downloadable brains and a working holodeck.”

-Bloomberg

I know, right? But “in the nerd hierarchy of needs, the flying car is up there with downloadable brains and a working holodeck,” as Bloomberg put it in an exploration of the Page’s company Zee.Aero. (The same article called the ongoing quest to invent a reliable one “ridiculous.”) People — fine, men, they’ve all been men — have gone bankrupt and died trying to live this dream.

Zee.Aero’s is but the latest in a history of attempts at bringing traffic into the stratosphere — the first having been perpetrated by a Wright Brothers rival back in 1917.

In 1945, Northern California joined the game for the first time with Alexander Weygers’ discopter, whose patent reportedly wound up with the U.S. Army. It’s proved a popular flying car testing ground ever since, due to technology industry and good old Cali optimism, perhaps.

Joby Aviation is pushing the envelope when it comes to personal flight craft, and is dead set on releasing a flying car. Photo: Joby Aviation

Joby Aviation is pushing the envelope when it comes to personal flight craft, and is dead set on releasing a flying car. Photo: Joby Aviation

What’s even wilder, the Bloomberg article revealed, is that Page actually has two teams focused on the flying car goal. The other is named Kittyhawk, after the Wright Brothers’ pioneering aircraft.

And a half hour south on Highway 101, lies yet another team of engineers, this one powered by a co-founder of Pintrest and a guy who made his money on airborne wind turbines, called Joby Aviation. All in all, there are about six flying auto projects, set to make their public debut between this year and 2026.

Is your soul alight with this news? Will you make the leap into the aerial commute when possible?

But the question remains: how many engineers are currently working on airborne traffic lights?

THE NEWS

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