About this Article
Written by: Ryan Alam
Written on: July 13th, 2011
Tags: aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, transportation
Thumbnail by: Terrafugia
About the Author
Ryan Alam was an undergraduate Junior at the University of Southern California studying International Relations and Global Business. After college, he hoped to pursue a Master’s degree in Business Administration and ultimately contribute to the economic and social progression of underdeveloped countries.
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Volume XIII Issue I > Flying Cars and the Future of Civil Transportation
Though many have tried and failed, those attempting to combine ground and sky with street-legal aircraft are presented with a new window of opportunity through which they can feasibly offer their innovations to the masses. Joint exploratory research conducted by NASA and the FAA has created the groundwork for an overhaul of our nation’s airspace and aviation system, allowing for an unprecedented increase in airspace traffic. This development, along with a breakthrough effort to include the untapped resource of over 5,000 public airports around the country, could lead to a revolution in how we approach civil transportation.

History of Aviation

Ever since the Wright brothers first took flight in the early 20th century, the aspiration to control the skies has become a prominent goal throughout modern society. From commercialized air travel to space exploration, the science of aeronautics has grown and evolved over the last century into a multifaceted world of benefits to people all over the globe. The field of aeronautics has experienced many ground-breaking and exciting innovations, but the ‘holy grail’ of human flight is the concept of flying cars. The thought of personalized flying machines that surpass street cars in efficiency and allow passengers to cover large distances in short times is a thrilling one. When faced with the idea of flying cars, it might be easy to think of the fictional, futuristic utopias found in popular fiction like The Jetsons or Star Wars. However, due to many problems like dated highway infrastructure, steadily increasing motor vehicle traffic, and the growing issue of inefficient commercialized flights, some engineers have already begun looking to the sky for solutions. Leading aviation inventors, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are hoping to change the world of civil transportation.

Civil Transportation Issues

Growing issues, one of which is the increasing number of vehicles on the road, plague the transportation systems of much of the industrialized world. To make matters worse, motor vehicle production has steadily increased since 2000. Though global production of motor vehicles has averaged around 45 million per year in the last decade, in 2007, car production rose from 49.1 million to 52.1 million. These figures put the approximate number of motor vehicles around the world at over 620 million [1]. In the United States alone, the number of passenger vehicles has increased from 225 million in 2000 to about 255 million in 2008 [2].
With over 30 million new passenger vehicles on the road in the last ten years and a relatively stable roadway infrastructure, congestion is a growing problem, particularly in the United States. According to a poll administered by TNS Global, the average American spends about 87 minutes in the car every day. A corresponding figure by the Department of Transportation puts the cost of road traffic congestion at about 5.7 billion person-hours of delay every year in the United States [3].