As we begin a new decade, there has been much talk of how far we’ve come in the past 10 years, as well as where we would like to be, technology-wise. Being a somewhat immature 20-something my first thought is that we are 5 years away from the time which Doc Brown and his time-travelling DeLorean are going to land in Hill Valley, CA and cause a little bit of trouble in the space-time continuum. This leads me to the question: “Where are our flying cars?”
This oft-asked question deserves a closer look. Yes, looking at old videos from the 50’s about what we thought today would be like is quite entertaining, but what about the reality of having such a technology? This may sound funny, but I am going to look at some downsides to having flying cars. Yes, downsides.
There is nothing quite like a peaceful drive up a windy road which leads to the top of a great peak, or to some other seldom seen viewpoint which, because of obscure geographical positioning or rough terrain is out of the public eye. This would be completely obliterated with the invention of vehicles which can scale peaks in a matter of seconds, touch down in any clearing, and lift off moments later, leaving empty fast-food bags behind. This brings me to my next issue:
Litter. Has a soda can ever landed on your head? One just might someday. If you think people will exercise any more restraint with their garbage once cars travel omnidirectionally, you are mistaken. Our freeways and roads are littered with candy wrappers, fast food containers and bottles. At least right now they aren’t traveling at their terminal velocity when encountered.
You may be tempted to think that flying will lead to quicker travel, cutting commutes and leading to less stress. This is not true. If your threshold for commute time is 1/2 an hour now, it will be when we have flying cars. People will simply begin commuting from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas for work, and doing their grocery shopping closer to where the food is actually grown. As people, we fill holes created by technology as quick as they are opened. Do you think that people lived 20 miles from their workplaces before the car was invented? You will still see your loved ones just much, and after the same amount of travel. Rather than your sister going to the local college to stay close to home, she will go to one “only 2 states over.”
This is only the beginning. Has your car ever broken down while you were on the freeway? How about while traveling at 300 miles an hour 3,000 feet in the air? You think some people can’t drive now, how about when they can travel up and down as well as right/left, forward/back? If the cars are autonomous, who will be to blame when they fail (as they inevitably will), the car makers or those who write the software that failed?
I hope you have enjoyed this romp in speculative technology and the effect it will have on our society. Despite all of these potential problems, I still say “BRING ON THE FLYING CARS!”