Where we’re going, will we need roads?

“We should stop thinking about flying cars as just aerial vehicles, but as air, land, and sea vehicles,” declared John Mohyi.

Mohyi is CEO of Mohyi Labs, an American flying car company.

“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads,” he continued.

Quoting Back To The Future is not a usual fixture at a conference. When flying cars are on the agenda, however, this seems rather normal.

Frost & Sullivan held its ninth annual Intelligent Mobility Conference on 29 June in London. Huddled in the swanky Jumeirah Carlton Tower in Knightsbridge, attendees were treated to a diverse panel of companies focusing on the ‘Digital Transformation of the Automotive Industry’.

From the flying carpets of Eastern folklore, to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, to thebusted floating Ford Anglia in the Harry Potter series, personal flight has never been far from the creative subconscious.

Some companies are eager to make these dreams a reality. Enter PAL-V. The Dutch aircraft engineering company unveiled some of its designs. Mostly sticking with the typical concept of a car that flies, they displayed a number of traditionally car-shaped vehicles with aircraft attachments. They advertised this as the ‘door-to-door’ model, vehicles that functioned more like aeroplanes than helicopters, able to glide across the ground, and end up directly at a destination at ground level.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a lot of the legislation and regulations are not yet in place. Only PAL-V’s first model, the Liberty, is road (and air) legal, and is slated to touch down in 2018.

Other businesses take their cues from craft not quite of this world. Mohyi Labs, a plucky aviation start-up based in Detroit, the traditional beating heart of America’s automotive industry, is working on a craft that is essentially a flying saucer.

The Jetson-like personal transportation vehicle may have three to five years away, but Mohyi’s current projects are building up to it, technologically. It began with developing an all-purpose ‘bladeless’ drone, and aims for a similar delivery drone to be available in one to two years. Gone is the traditional and helicopter-inspired four blade drone. Mohyi wants to usher us into the future with smooth craft that can fly and hover over both land and water.

Could this be the key to congestion? Could people shuffling around in personal flying transport, ease pressure on the world’s ailing road system? Though this is several years in the future, and depends on an overhaul of regulation, it seems an interesting concept.

Electric vehicles were once considered to be an odd, fringe technology, used only by scientists and the most eccentric of the wealthy. Yet just seven years after the Nissan Leaf took the car market by storm, Tesla has unveiled the Model 3, its first mass-produced electric vehicle. With the hangover of Dieselgate still lingering, recent reports suggests up to half of existing diesel drivers would switch fuel types.

Nothing happens overnight in this industry. The rise of electric and other alternative fuel vehicles has been many years in the making. When governments engage in the agenda, and work with industry, technological and attitudinal change is possible. France recently announced plans to ban combustion-only engines by 2040. India wants to be all electric by 2030. In Norway, electric cars are already responsible for 42% of passenger car sales.

Many flying car models are themselves fuelled by electricity. Could the convergence of a desire to reduce congestion lead to flying cars becoming the next logical step in the low emissions agenda?