Yeah, yeah. I was trying to be less of a curmudgeon this year, but the fact that people are waxing a wee bit too nostalgic over Back to the Future Part II and its “predictions” about the world of 2015 has roused me into a stupor over all this fanciful fawning. Let’s face it, folks: most of us are just too eager to over-appreciate some forms of technology despite realizing it’ll be abused and very royally mucked up once it gets into the paws of the public. The combination of old and new bad habits will make that otherwise cool tech too damn deadly to be of any use unless it’s under VERY highly controlled conditions…
The two most obvious example are flying cars and hoverboards. Some of you know where this is going, the rest of you hang onto your hats. Flying cars have actually been around in some form since the 1950’s, but people who can’t drive well but continue to hit the road on a daily basis have been around since the automobile was invented. Or before that, if you think about it…
Poke around the internet and you’ll see well intentioned and well funded companies such as Moller International, Terrafugia, AeroMobil and others, all full of talented and dedicated people hard at work making this “future” a reality. Despite mandatory improvements in safety and loads of road rules and assorted regulations from state to state, accidents are still common and very often, fatal. And that’s not counting drunk and impaired drivers, road rage, or digital distractions that cause small to large wrecks. All that stuff happens on LAND. Imagine any of that happening in the air? Yikes. In short, Putting a flying car in the hands of anyone but the most capable and concentrated person is only asking for trouble.
That, and considering the new rules and laws regarding flying passenger vehicles of any type that will need to be implemented are going to be a disaster because of the ass-backward way we do things here in the U.S. of A. these days. You’d better believe that state by state laws for things such as flight zones and the ages people who can operate these rides need to be before they hop in and go up for a spin will be a tangle of legalese. Where a simple set of detailed national laws regarding this sort of thing should be the order of the day, expect some politicians to step in and get their filthy hands dirtier as they get set to grab that big slice of flying car law pie. If you think this will all turn out great and that I’m being a bit pessimistic… just look at all the solid unmanned drone laws we have in this country in every state. Oh, that’s riiiiiight… we don’t.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want to be out for a stroll and have some unmanned camera packed drones out for a peep session floating around in the same airspace as some commuter trying to zip to his or her job in their flying hoopty. While putting on makeup, drinking a hot cup of coffee, checking email AND with a screaming toddler strapped into the seat next to them. It seems that these future flight risks work better in wider open spaces with not a lot going on. Movies such as the one above, Blade Runner, The Fifth Element, Minority Report and so forth and so on wreck reality by making people think stuff like high-speed car chases or even the simple act of flitting about free as a bird (well, a bird flying a controlled path) will be as easy as pie.
As for hoverboards? Yeah, there are people actually working on this technology, but it’s too early and too flawed and I’m betting a whole penny that it’ll take a lot more time and even more money to get this even close to right. Hendo Hoverboards and their spin on magnetic levitation along with HoverSkater’s take on the “floating” ride are interesting, but nowhere near ready for prime time. The fact is, unless you’ve got a computer that can calculate for all sorts of body types, weights and other factors, the idea of a floating board you can’t fall off of that can do X Games style tricks is something straight out of a movie or videogame:
Yeah, you all want that, but you’re going to get something very much like this instead (ouch). The main problem with hoverboard tech is it’ll be used mostly by people who may not want busted bones and bodies, but will get them as they learn the ups and downs of the hobby they’ve chosen. Of course, imagine the mixture of flying cars, hoverboards, delivery and personal drones all fighting for airspace and attention in a crowded major metropolis and it’s a nightmare of tangled bodies, lightweight plastics and metals all resulting in more legislation that has people screaming about their violated rights right before they’re screaming in pain after a terrible wreck.
All that and I’m guessing that anything that can fly and drive will be pretty expensive (as will the insurance premiums) and only affordable to the super-rich. I can’t see an affordable and safe flying car coming unless it’s completely automatic like the ones in Minority Report that don’t “fly” as much as travel point to point on guided pathways. So much for the freedom of the open road, huh? Am I being too pessimistic here? I don’t think so, ladies and gents. I’ve just been around long enough to know that the major factor that keeps people from making the best out of technology is people themselves. I’d bet some black hat techies are just holding their breaths for the day when someone figures out how to make someone’s flying flivver take off and land remotely. There goes that neighborhood when you can’t even keep your new flying car from zipping off into the stratosphere.
Eh, as always… we shall see. Just keep watching the skies and carry a hard hat with you at all times from this point onward…