Commuter Reflections

As I drove home from work last night, I thought about the flying car. Technological limitations aside, it could never really happen for one mundane reason: insurance premiums. Conventional car insurance rates are already hefty, and automobiles only travel in two directions, forward and backward. A flying car, potentially[1], could travel forward, backward, hard left, hard right, up and down. That’s two more sets of axes, so at the very least we’d triple our potential for accidents, and thus triple our insurance rates. Then take into account the amount of skill needed to pilot such a craft, and how many people have a hard enough time not crashing their cars as it is.

Of course, while I’m dreaming, I think really the only way for a flying car to be a viable mode of transportation for average people would be for it to somehow conquer gravity. Propellors and turbine engines are just too dangerous for Joe Sixpack. The mythical flying car would have to involve some kind of anti-gravity buffer that protects it from hitting the ground and from hitting anything else around it. A force field, I guess. Only then would the accident rates drop low enough to be cost-effective, possibly even lower than automobiles.

Anyway this is the sort of thing I think about during rush hour traffic.

1.) I’m assuming the flying car is VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) because not everyone has access to a safe runway.

2 thoughts on “Commuter Reflections”

  1. I’m not certain flying cars would necessarily triple the potential for accidents. Even assuming less-than-total freedom of movement, the number of possible positions a car can occupy in a three-dimensional space is so large compared to the number of cars that the chances of collision should go down, rather than up. For instance, even if the FAA didn’t monitor thepositions of commercial aircraft all the time, they still wouldn’t collide very often in flight, simply because the sky is so large.

    Then again, now that I think about it the danger is probably more in colliding with obstacles than other cars. Like, say, the ground.

    Anyway, any sane engineer wouldn’t let people fly these things at all — everything would be automated. You would get in the car and let it know your destination, and then the car would take off automatically and merge onto a skyway. As you neared your destination, either the car could negotiate for a landing permit with a landing computer hosted by Wal-Mart or whatever, or it could set itself down on a public lot and let you drive the last few blocks as if it were a regular car.

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