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A question is emerging implicitly in the media: Is the “flying car” concept still comically unrealistic?

The concept had already drawn decades of smirks and skepticism before 1971, when the Washington Post’s Jim Hoagland won his first of two Pulitzer Prizes. Yet his op-ed last week was about “visions of a world remade” by a “fourth industrial revolution.” The article’s opening highlighted “Uber helicopters or even planes to fly their owners across mushrooming urban areas.”

Hoagland omitted the increasingly misleading term “flying car,” though a few innovators do still envision aircraft that can somehow also travel on roads.

Uber, the international ride-hailing behemoth, isn’t one of them. Nor does it actually envision futuristic helicopter fleets. Instead, it’s planning battery-powered air taxis that take off and land vertically from “vertiports” and “vertistops,” yet differ distinctly from helicopters. USA Today says Uber envisions deployment over Dallas and Los Angeles by 2020, with “heavy use” by the time of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

Enthusiasm has been growing worldwide for roughly a dozen comparable ventures. Well-funded strivers are exploiting advances in lightweight materials and electric aeropropulsion. They’re cheering continuing incremental advances in battery technology.

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Category: Science