Road Safety News

Flying cars on the horizon?

Friday 20th February 2015

A flying car should be available commercially in 2016, according to the US company that manufactures it (BBC News).

Boston-based Terrafugia says it has overcome the technical difficulties which have delayed flying car sales which were expected to begin in 2012.

The Terrafugia website says: “Cars let you set your own schedule, but they’re slow and dangerous. We need the safety of commercial aviation, the convenience and flexibility of a car, and the freedom of the open sky.

“Terrafugia intends to lead the creation of a new flying car industry that will help humanity achieve this new dimension of personal freedom.” 

The model that is expected to be available next year is the Transition® which is described as “a street-legal airplane that converts between flying and driving modes in under a minute”.

Terrafugia says: “The Transition® can fly in and out of over 5,000 public airports in the US and is legal to drive on public roads and highways. It is the only light aircraft designed to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and is also equipped with a full-vehicle parachute for additional safety.” 

Terrafugia says it is in the advanced stages of testing the Transition® in preparation for early production. The anticipated “base purchase price” is $279,000.


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I can't help but admire the ingenuity. But in the end this still needs an airstrip to take off and land so it's effectively a plane, but one you can drive home. Heaven forbid you might use a car for that purpose. If you want true point to point journeys you get a helicopter. In terms of road safety I imagine the biggest threat will be people trying to land on roads when they realise they are low on fuel and too far from the nearest strip.
Tim Philpot, Wolverhampton

Agree (2) | Disagree (1)

Back to the story - is it me or does the quoted price seem cheap - not much more than some high-end cars?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Both the road and air transport systems require that human beings operate complex machines in hostile environments. The variables in those environments may be different, but the way the humans deal with those variables is exactly the same. Why then do we have two different approaches to maintaining and enhancing safety within those environments? On the one hand we have the view that the system generates the error, but on the other hand we have the view that the error infects the system. Which one is the correct view?
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Idris is correct, but only partially so. The aviation industry is proud of its safety record and the approach they adopt to crashes, but there are many other factors which contribute to aviation safety.

There is the low traffic density, as mentioned. There is also no equivalent of pedestrians, both young and old, cyclists, animals free to wander into the road (other than bird strikes) when flying. If one is to enter busy space, one has to tell an Air Traffic Controller about it, and that person will monitor your journey and interaction with other air traffic. Although Duncan states that the training for a PPL and a driving licence are similar, there are big differences: would a car driver tolerate being restricted to driving only in daylight as basic pilots are? I think not.

If the aviation industry had the number of crashes that we have on the road, would they be able to investigate them as fully as they now do? The parallels drawn between flying and driving are at first view compelling, but do not stand up to close examination.

However, if is of little consequence in relation to the subject of this discussion; there is no chance that the idea of flying cars will ever take off.
David, Suffolk

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It never ceases to amaze me when you continually compare the apparent fantastic job that the aviation manufacturers, authorities and operators are doing in comparison with the apparent dismal efforts made by interested parties within the road safety system.

One thing that they both have in common is that they do not/will not admit to any failings and therefore hide the truth. To my recollection I can vaguely recall a number of situations over the last 40 years where whistleblowers or other organisations both inside and outside the industry have found fault with the aircraft industry either in design, build or operations. Many of these shortcomings came to light and passed away without one iota of agreement of fault from those within that industry. It's not in their nature to admit that mistakes have been made. That parts or design or operational faults were responsible for failures that costs lives.

Like other authorities they stay quiet and pay out compensation. It is a well known fact that the payment of compensation in the event of a circumstance known to them would be peanuts compared to the actual act or cost of doing something about it. An act which would probably cost so much that it could cause the particular airline or manufacture to go out of business.

In this Saturday's paper, The Saturday Mail dated 21st Feb 2015, there is a prime example. Toxic fumes being vented into the aircraft's fresh air supply, for all to breath and that its having an adverse effects upon the health of pilots and other air crew who obviously suffer it to a far greater degree than passengers. It's been known about since at least 1999 and apparently is caused by the cabin air in flight being induced through the cooling system of the oil cooled starters and engines. That releases toxic oil gases that escape into the cabin and the cockpit. It's an interesting article and so far some 50 air crew, who have suffered similar ill health problems with no obvious causation are suing the airlines and manufacturers.

Apparently a £20,000 filter would have stopped all this but nothing was ever done even though the industry new about it. Some modern planes now operate a different air flow system which does not produce this problem.

So much for a safer industry. I don't think so.
Bob Craven Lancs... Space is safe Campaigner

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If an aircraft crashes, the investigation does indeed look at all the surrounding circumstances. If the pilot, engineer or anyone else in the chain is found to have caused or contributed to the crash they are held to account just as any driver or mechanic would be on the ground. Can we please dispel the myth that pilots are not held responsible for their actions and that they do make mistakes, break the rules, just as car drivers do but, hopefully, less frequently?

With regard to attitude, let's not also forget that pilots work in a controlled, closed system unlike our open to anyone public roads. Pilots are also required to requalify and to demonstrate that their health, skills and knowledge are still up to date on a regular basis in order to retain their licence. Car drivers are not.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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1 example proves nothing, but much the worst driver I have ever ridden with - slow to the point of dithering, ultra cautious to absurd degrees and very irritating indeed because of it - was a very experienced and glider pilot.

There is another important difference between road and air that no one has mentioned - spacings and response times needed. On A roads for instance with vehicles converging at 2 x 60mph to pass each other with 2 ft to spare requires responses in fraction of a second - in the air often fractions of a minute.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

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Sorry Duncan, you're barking up the wrong tree completely I'm afraid with your understanding of road accidents.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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There may well be sloppiness in attitude and ability, but that does not neccessarily lead to accidents! These are normally the result of usual actions in unusual conditions rather than unusual actions in usual conditions so attitude and ability will play little part in this process. If the sloppiest of drivers has an ability to predict the subtle onset of unusual conditions then they will fare much better than the diligent driver that cannot make such predictions.

The standards required of an individual to fly are very similar to those required to drive it's just that pilots are well trained in predicting the onset of unusual conditions that's all.

Like I say, it's not the person, but the system that surrounds them that is truly at the heart of the accident causation process.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Hugh's unintended pun (?) about far higher hits a point. It's a long way down from up there - fear of falling is a natural fear from birth. Falling from ground level tends to release some from certain responsibilities.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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I was suggesting that the sloppiness in attitude and ability that abounds amongst drivers/riders and which leads to accidents and which we seem to tolerate, would definitely not be tolerated in pilots and wondered if pilots, because of this instilled attitude, made better drivers and riders? As Derek implies, the standards required of an individual required to fly are far, far, higher than that required to drive when there's arguably far more at stake with the latter.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Something like this comes around every 10 to 15 years and unfortunately it rarely if ever takes off (no pun intended but appropriate nevertheless). More for the Americas I think.
Bob Craven Lancs....Space is safe Campaigner

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Pilots are just people and not some form of super-humans that have special attributes in comparison with their earth-bound cousins. Thereís not much difference in the training regime either as training for a pilot's licence takes about the same amount of time that it takes for a driving licence and with an equivalent standard of capability and knowledge. What is different however is that the aviation industry knows far more about how and why pilots crash than the road transport industry knows about how and why drivers crash. That knowledge is constantly being fed back into the training system so that it always reflects the current understanding.

If a pilot crashes, the aviation industry does not immediately leap to blame them for some shortcoming, but looks instead at the circumstances prevailing at the time they crashed to see if there was anything new to be learnt from them. Every crash will always offer up some nugget of new information that can be learnt from and used to prevent any future occurrences, something that never happens in road transport.

Hugh and Derek suggest itís something about the pilot that makes the difference to the safety of the system when in fact itís the system that makes a difference to the safety of the pilot.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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The flying car - such were often depicted in comics of my childhood (over 60yrs ago) - and built by some too. Were pilots of the Royal Flying Corps considered safe on the roads? I doubt it! Barnstormers and flying circus's aside, what's the chance of training todays drivers to the standards required for civil aviation. Slim methinks.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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I wonder if pilots are found to be naturally better drivers i.e safer, than non-pilots, because of the attributes and discipline required to be allowed to fly a plane? Interesting question for Duncan maybe.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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As a flying car leaves the ground it also transitions from a safety culture where human error and unsafe acts are treated as a cause to a safety culture where human error and unsafe acts are treated as a symptom of deeper problems. Same vehicle, same person at the controls, completely different approaches to safety.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Ah Ha so the Jetsons had it right all along, it's just taken a little longer than anticipated. (Youthful readers will have to Google search for Jetsons, others of us can happily reminisce.)
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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