Jet packs, hover boards, flying cars… the future doesn’t always turn out how we think it will does it?

Well, sometime it does. While some technological advances remain beyond us (for the moment at least), it seems that the flying car is now with us.

A company in the USA called Terrafugia is now marketing a car that converts into a plane… and it doesn’t look like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Harry Potter’s flying Ford Anglia.

The Transition is a rather clunky looking car but it quickly changes into a rather nifty little plane which can carry two people.  A short video shows a chap taking The Transition for a spin, emerging from a garage in suburbia in what looks like a folded up plane, then driving it to his nearest airfield where he presses a button, the wings unfurl and he’s up and away.

What seems a bit comical at first becomes a convincing bit of technology very quickly. How close The Transition is to becoming an everyday vehicle is hard to tell, but the tech is now there and Terrafugia looking for investors.

On their website, Terrafugia rightly point out that while communication and information technology has undergone rapid and drastic change in the last 50 years, transport has not really changed much and, indeed, travel itself has become more difficult and challenging. Our roads are jam-packed, our cities are congested and driving is often a pain rather than a pleasure.

Terrafugia say what they’re hoping to offer is the convenience of a car – where you can set your own schedule – with the freedom of flying. It’s a hugely ambitious idea, but it makes sense. It’s not that easy getting round at ground level, so why don’t we look to the skies?

It may be a few years before we’re all popping out for a spin in the sky or commuting to work in a plane, but don’t count it out as a possibility. Terrafugia are already working on a more advanced  model, the TF-X, a plug-in hybrid electric flying car, a four-seater which can take off and land vertically – so there’s no need for a runway.

The TF-X really does look (and sound) like something futuristic – it wouldn’t look out of place in Minority Report or The Fifth Element – and Terrafugia say it’ll be safer than a conventional car, fly itself and have a flight range of 500 miles with speeds of up to 200 mph.

The company say it’ll take 8-10 years to develop the TF-X  but with the tagline on their website, “In the future, anyone can fly” it looks like a probability rather than a possibility.

The ultimate convertibles

Inspired by Terrafugia’s ‘street legal planes’ that convert from cars into planes, here’s the Comms Express top three vehicle conversions:

Hong Kong Phooeys Car

The mild-mannered janitor turned crime fighting Kung Fu expert  in the 1970s cartoon series travelled around in a rickety old green car which, with the bang of a gong, he could turn into a boat, plane or just about any other form of transport.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

When he wasn’t writing James Bond novels, Ian Fleming penned Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a charming children’s story  set in the 1910s about the escapades of a mad inventor called Caractacus. The 1968 film featured Dick Van Dyke as Potts, whose inventions are the forerunners of the television, vacuum cleaner and, erm, toot sweets. But his greatest creation is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, a car that can not only fly but deploy floats so it can act as a boat too.

James Bonds Lotus Esprit

Roger Moore’s third outing as James Bond saw him encounter hulking, metal-mouthed villain Jaws for the first time but just as memorable was the ability of 007’s Lotus Esprit to convert to amphibious mode and become a submarine, emerging from the sea onto a beach full of bewildered sunbathers. Brilliant!

Have we missed any of your favourites?

Until next time…