Blade Run­ner, The Jet­sons and Back to the Fu­ture all had one thing in com­mon …

Shanghai Daily - - CIIE - Andy Bore­ham

Back to the Fu­ture II” didn’t get much right about the world of to­mor­row, but one prediction might not have been too many years off. Yes­ter­day I dis­cov­ered that the fu­ture wit­nessed by Marty McFly, as well as the fan­tas­ti­cal world of The Jet­sons por­trayed nearly 60 years ago, may be just around the cor­ner.

Any time we’re asked to imag­ine the fu­ture, with all its end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties, there’s one thing most of us seem to grav­i­tate to: fly­ing cars. I’m not sure what the ob­ses­sion is, but it must have some­thing to do with free­dom — the abil­ity to take to the skies when­ever the fancy arises.

That fan­tasy is close to be­ing imag­ined, at least for those with around 1.2-1.4 mil­lion eu­ros (US$1.37-1.60 mil­lion) to spare, thanks to the AeroMo­bil 4.0.

“This is a su­per car, with su­per pow­ers,” Jonathan J. Car­rier from AeroMo­bil told me. “What that means is, it’s a car that gives you great per­for­mance, great ver­sa­til­ity, and it’s un­like any other: It al­lows you to fly and drive any­where.”

It does look amaz­ing — more hand­some and fu­tur­is­tic than any of the cars I saw fly­ing around in “Fifth Ele­ment” or “Blade Run­ner.”

It has a fly­ing range of 750 kilo­me­ters, can carry a pay­load of 240kg (in­clud­ing pas­sen­gers) and cruises along at 360 kilo­me­ters per hour. Over­all, it looks more than im­pres­sive.

But, prob­a­bly be­cause I’m a re­al­ist — maybe even a bit of a pes­simist — I couldn’t help but dig deeper. It just sounds too good to be true. Can any­one fly it? Wouldn’t they need a pi­lots’ li­cense and long hours of train­ing? Can own­ers of this ma­chine pull out of their drive­ways in sub­ur­bia and then take off from a nor­mal road? It just doesn’t seem fea­si­ble, at least not to­day.

Car­rier laughed. Ap­par­ently be­ing naïve.

Of course any­one who takes the AeroMo­bil to the skies needs to train and be li­censed first, he told me with the de­meanor of a pa­tient and un­der­stand­ing teacher. “You can’t drive a car on the road with­out a li­cense, and it’s no dif­fer­ent in the air.”

I was

And it’s not as dif­fi­cult as it sounds, he in­sisted. To pi­lot this small, yel­low beast, one would only need a pri­vate pi­lots’ li­cense, which he says only takes around 40 hours.

The car with wings is be­ing mar­keted as be­ing able to drive and fly any­where. Wouldn’t lamp­posts and rub­bish cans and trees and peo­ple get in the way as this thing zoomed down your neigh­bor­hood street reach­ing its take-off speed of 125 kilo­me­ters per hour?

Car­rier scoffed that idea off as a bit fan­tas­ti­cal, too.

You need to take off and land at cer­ti­fied land­ing strips which, he said, also in­cludes out-of-the-way strips of grass. “There are hun­dreds and hun­dreds of pri­vate land­ing strips across Europe, across the US, and in­creas­ingly across Asia as well,” he in­sisted. “This will al­low peo­ple to take off and land vir­tu­ally any­where.”

I had the priv­i­lege of sit­ting in­side the fly­ing car. It was com­fort­able and well-de­signed, but I get the feel­ing it’s piv­oted more to­ward the fly­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, whether on pur­pose or by ne­ces­sity.

Get­ting into the ve­hi­cle re­quires a cer­tain skill — a cer­tain un­der­stand­ing of how to ma­noeu­vre your body — much like I’d imag­ine the process of em­bed­ding your­self in­side the cock­pit of a jet fighter. It’s tight and a bit re­stric­tive, although my height of 190cm didn’t pose a prob­lem.

I can’t imag­ine any­one us­ing this as a car just to drive to the su­per­mar­ket or to visit nana.

You’d def­i­nitely only use it to fly, and you’d al­ready have a flight plan and a booked take-off slot at your near­est small air­port or land­ing strip. It def­i­nitely won’t be a case of, “Oh no, I’m late for work — I know! I’ll fly in­stead of driv­ing!”

But it’s still early days, and the guys from AeroMo­bil are hop­ing to work to­gether with gov­ern­ments and city plan­ners to “put the build­ing blocks in place” and make fly­ing cars more ac­ces­si­ble, more con­ve­nient, and maybe even more af­ford­able.

“We want to show­case that for China, there’s a chance to be­come world lead­ers for per­sonal avi­a­tion and fly­ing cars,” Car­rier said.

With a GoPro cam­era on head, Andy Bore­ham shoots a video in­side AeroMo­bil (left), a su­per car with a fly­ing range of 750 kilo­me­ters and a pay­load of 240 kilo­gram. — Zhou Shengjie and Dong Jun

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.