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Flying Car? Make Mine a Hybrid

So it seems that designers haven't forgotten about the flying car, after all. Terrafugia, an aerospace company founded by MIT engineers, is working on a four-seater, plug-in hybrid car that can go from your driveway to the sky.

It sounds pretty easy to use: you tell the car where to fly—up to 500 miles away—and it takes you there by itself. When you want to land, it takes care of that, too (though as the pilot, you have the final say in whether it's safe to land at any particular moment). After it's on the ground, it folds up and converts back to a car within seconds. It's legal to drive down the street, and it fits in a standard single-car garage.

The design is just a concept for now; the company is doing feasibility testing, and talking with the FAA to figure out necessary approvals. In eight to 12 years, the company expects the flying car to be available to buy.

As a plug-in hybrid with both batteries and an internal combustion engine, it's undoubtedly more sustainable than a standard airplane. If it could be made fully electric, and if users plugged into renewable electricity, operating it wouldn't be that bad for the environment (the sustainability of production, just like for a car, is a different question).

But should we really be focusing on making more forms of personal transportation right now? The designers argue that we need flying cars to help adapt to crowded roads. Better public transportation can solve the problem more efficiently. Could we be designing subways as fun to use as a flying car?

Join us for our Fix Your Street Challenge on the last Saturday of May. Click here to say you'll Do It and be sure to share stories of transportation innovation all month.\n

Image courtesy of Terrafugia

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