Flying Cars May Be Here Sooner Than You Think
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
Ever since the first car left its factory, humans have demanded a bit more. We’ve wanted an automobile that could soar through the sky. Well, that technology may be right around the corner.
We had the pleasure of hearing from Austin Klein who is a product manager at Runzheimer, a company dedicated to improving the mobile workforce.
Klein has us astounded with the very notion that flying cars may one day whisk around the nation, delivering business travelers in style and efficiency.
The most remarkable aspect of the interview is that the technology is presently being studied and funded by the likes of a Google cofounder.
Obviously, there are many issues that come with flying cars taking to the skies.
Making a suitable aircraft is one thing, but the infrastructure and safety is entirely another beast that needs to be tamed.
Klein explained the possibilities as well as the difficulties that face companies flirting with what could be the budding industry of flying cars.
TravelPulse: First, briefly explain Runzheimer and its benefit to business travelers worldwide? What innovations might prove particularly useful?
Austin Klein: Runzheimer is the leader in workforce mobility programs, designing and delivering business vehicle programs, relocation information services and business expense solutions. Runzheimer helps companies better manage cost, reduce business risk and increase employee satisfaction in the mobile workplace. Since its founding in 1933, Runzheimer has continuously innovated to make the life of a business traveler safer and more efficient. The most notable of those innovations is Equo, an app that records business mileage and automates the task of creating an IRS-compliant mileage log.
TP: For those who have been wanting flying cars since childhood, what evidence is there that this technology may come sooner rather than later?
AK: This month, news broke that Google Cofounder Larry Page has been investing in not one, but two flying car startups - Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk. And he’s not alone in the flying car frontier. Flying car enthusiasts and lone investors are also attempting to make this futuristic dream a reality. Aeronautical engineers at NASA predict the first flying car will take flight in the next five to 10 years, but news surfaced that Terrafugia Aviation may be heading for the skies sooner. The Federal Aviation Administration gave Terrafugia the green light to test their “light sport aircraft,” so the legalization of flying cars seems to already be underway.
TP: What are the potential benefits/downsides to such an enterprise?
AK: Similar to recent sharing economy and autonomous car innovations in the field of business travel, flying cars present an opportunity for increased efficiency. Roads are overcrowded with buses, bikes, cars and more, but the sky provides an opportunity for limitless “roads” and less traffic jams.
But there are also some obvious downsides. Traveling at higher speeds has its risks, but technical malfunctions or pilot errors could prove to be equally dangerous. If a business traveler is in a flying car and something goes wrong, who would assume this risk? Insurance companies need to prepare for the changes, and businesses should expect fluctuating insurance expenses.
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In addition, we could be looking at some challenges in terms of airspace, as flying cars play into the private aviation space. Drones are facing a lot of challenges with regulations around airspace right now, so that’s something the flying cars could have to combat as well. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently announced new laws for business-related drone flights, some of the first, small steps being taken toward integrating drones into everyday flight. Fully operating drone or flying car flights could be a ways off.
TP: What do you see as the impact such an innovation might have on the industry of business travel?
AK: We could see a rise in the number of in-person meetings. The cost to fly is extremely high right now, and businesses are calculating the ROI for each in-person meeting and deciding if it’s worth opting for digital meetings instead. But flying cars could become a more cost-effective alternative for business travel. We could end up seeing the remote and freelance workforces boom. Flying cars present more freedom and opportunities for workers to travel more freely.
TP: Is this something businesses should really consider now as they plan for the next decade?
AK: Five years ago we started talking about the autonomous car, and while there are advances in this space, it still hasn’t directly impacted insurance and business travel policies. Similarly with the flying car, it’s clear that with recent investments we should be thinking about this, but we are still far off from actualization.
With that said, organizations should definitely put flying cars and new innovations on their radar, and look at creating flexible policies in the next decade that can account for a number of different travel options. By adequately preparing for new trends that will continue to arise, enterprises will have the ability to readily use emerging technology, like flying cars, for business travel. Companies that recognize the opportunities and plan for this technology ahead of adoption could see major competitive advantages.
TP: Lastly, what is something you think our readers would love to hear about flying cars in general.
AK: Flying cars have the potential to become an accepted method of business travel in the future. With the autonomous car, some experts predicted they'd be decades off, but in reality, we're not far off from a full-blown adoption. The flying car seems like a fantasy that is so far away, and perfecting these types of innovations can be a long process, but the flying car could arrive sooner than we may think. Terrafugia is already making huge steps in bringing the flying car to the automotive industry.
Obviously, having optimism in an industry and seeing something like flying cars come into fruition are two things entirely.
As mentioned, we are yet to even see self-driving cars take over the roadways as we have hoped for half a decade.
With that said, it’s remarkable to think that something seen as pure science fiction is being researched to such a degree that its production in the next decade is plausible.
We leave you with just that as you sit back and daydream about going to the company garage to take the corporate flying car for a liberating trip to just about wherever you can imagine.
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