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August 28, 2004


I've always liked this DKM essay:

Where's the damned future shock? Alvin Toffler promised us we'd have future shock, but I don't have future shock, no, I have the Internet. Where are the rocket cars, and where the hell is the space program I was promised? When I was six years old I sat on my father's lap while men walked on the Moon; it's my first memory of the outside world. I still remember my father telling me how important it was, how it gave us hope of escaping the planet of our birth and going elsewhere. And yet ... science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle wrote once that he always knew that he would live to see the first man on the Moon; but that he'd never dreamed he'd live to see the last.

The terrorist issue is a serious one, but the specter of drunk flying would probably be enough to put the kibosh on this one, dammit.

Probably on both counts, Moe. Or, on the gripping hand, simple incompetence: with how over a hundred fatal car accidents every day in the US, do we really want to think about widespread manual control of flying vehicles?

It's a shame. But I think the closest we're likely to come is legally-enforced autopilots and flight plans a la DKM's TransCon Traffic Control.

Problem with a flying car (or any neat new transport toy like autonomous vehicles or maglev trains) is insurance. Insurance companies are incredibly conservative; anything new is well- nigh uninsurable.

When there's an accident with an established transportation system, folks tend to say "shit happens" and ignore it. New stuff, an accident will start a crusade. Remember what happened with airbags? Save 2000 lives/year, kill 100 extra? The resulting lawsuits nearly killed the airbag industry.

Ya gotta wonder just how energy efficient a flying car is, anyway...

We were just in California on a vacation and stopped by the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos. They have something there that is the coolest transportation device I've ever seen, and it was created way back in 1955 -- the flying platform. Unfortunately they don't let people take it on test runs, but they do show a video of the thing in action. One thing they didn't really make clear is why this concept never went anywhere -- apparently there was quite a lot of demand for them after the demo.

I remember, in my younger years, being fixated for a time on an article I read in Popular Mechanics about a kit that allowed you to build a Vertical Takeoff or Landing vehicle based around a motorcycle engine. I didn't have twenty grand handy, though, so I never actually ordered one.

Anyway, while we are waiting for the flying cars to come down in price, there is always the Airscooter. Actually, pricing is unavailable at the moment, but it has to be significantly less than a million dollars.

Random personal anecdote... My uncle, who became a NASA engineer working on the moon lander, was one of the first people in the United States to use a "modern" seatbelt: he retrofitted a fighter-pilot's harness into his truck. This would've been in the late 1940s, I think, mid-50s by the latest.

Jet packs, dammit! Where's my jet packs?!?

A few years ago, I came across a program booklet for the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle. There was actually a full-page advertisement for a flying car maker, and they were seeking to sign up dealers! I gave the book to my stepdaughter, but will see if she still has it so I can scan that page. It's really something how naive people can be...

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