It's 2016. The discussion is all about autonomous vehicles or 'self-driving' cars, but Back To The Future and Beyond 2000 promised us years ago that we'd all have hovercars and be immortal by now, so what happened? The immortality was always a long shot, but how hard is it to get us our hovercars?! Then again, would they truly make our lives better? Let's look at the pros and cons of hovercars – just in case the future ever arrives.
'YOUR car of the future may have no wheels. It may not even touch the road as it races along the turnpike at speeds well above 100 mph while you and your family sit back and enjoy the ride—without fear of accident or injury.' - Mechanix Illustrated, 1958.
Traffic Jams Begone
This is the big one. If hovercars didn't ease congestion what would be the point? Assuming they could actually fly and not just float at street level, there's a good chance our traffic woes would ease. But wait … there would need to be fixed laneways in the sky. Otherwise, the sky would be a constant maelstrom of flying metal in every direction, which could arguably be even more of a nightmare to negotiate in the morning than the trip from Maitland to Newcastle on the first day of uni.
Imagine carparks like giant pigeonholes, cars parked vertically as neatly and easily as shoes behind the counter at the bowling alley. Cheap, convenient, simple. But this new dimension to inner-city parking could lead to complications. Rather than be dropped off at the front entrance to the footy you could be dropped off at your seats, while Dad flies off to park on the roof of across the street. Any flat surface is suddenly a viable parking spot. While this may seem like a good thing, it will increase people's recklessness in their pursuit of the perfect park. Can you imagine the air on a Knights home game? And nobody wants to be the family that had to be rescued by the NRMA in their Nissan Hoverhatchback from the top of a Hunter Stadium floodlight.
Accidents in the Air
A collision with another car is a terrifying prospect for any of us. But one of the few benefits of them occurring at ground level is that the cars are almost definitely not going to then fall from a great height on to more people. Also, your chances of emerging unharmed after being hurled through the windscreen of a moving car – while not great to begin with – become almost zero when that car is already moving at speed several hundred metres above the surface of the planet. Not to mention the possibility of a car hurtling through your office on the 22nd floor on a quiet afternoon because someone forgot to apply the brakes.
The Hovercar F1
Where would this happen? Would hovercar races be in the sky, or in giant, 3-dimensional racing arenas, like a hovercar version of Quidditch? Would the advertising be on the underside? And where would the crowd sit? Stop with all the questions!
However, there could be unexpected benefits to illegal drag hover-racing. Apart from giving drag-racing renegades whole new levels of racing real estate, it could also open up a dozen new sequels in the Fast and Furious franchise.
Hovering for the Greater Good
Of course, we can't forget that there would potentially be significant social benefits to hovercars. Rescuing people from dangerous, otherwise inaccessible areas; urgently delivering much-needed medical supplies and food and water to people affected by natural disasters; multi-level drive-thrus at fast food outlets – all the big issues could be managed by the simple invention of the one thing we've all been waiting for.
'Without the usual wheels, axles, transmission, clutches, etc, the Curtiss-Wright Air-Car travels smoothly over any unobstructed terrain, across water, mud or swamps on a cushion of low pressure, low velocity air. The controls are simple and the vehicle is inherently stable - anyone who can drive a car can operate an Air-Car. The ‘Bee’ is a compact, two passenger Air-Car which travels at speeds up to 56mph with a 100hp engine.'
Despite the 21st century falling short of its promise thus far, hovercars are probably not as far away as we think. But there's much that needs to be decided before then.
Perhaps the only thing we can be sure of is the extortionate ‘Air Tax' that hovercar drivers will be forced to pay for the privilege of living out their childhood dreams. Maybe we should stick with what we know, and keep our beloved wheels on the ground.
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