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There is a new way to beat rush hour traffic. Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved Terrafugia’s flying car for use on roads and highways. The vehicle, called the Transition, will be the “first combined flying-driving vehicle to receive such special consideration from the Department of Transportation since the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards came into being in the 1970s.”
The car can be converted from a road car to a plane in less than 30 seconds and has many features of both vehicles. Although it lacks a gearstick, the driver still has control through brake and accelerator pedals and a typical steering wheel. When converted to an airplane, the vehicle is then controlled by a yoke.
NHTSA made some special exemptions for this “roadable aircraft” so that it could be feasibly produced. In exchange, NHTSA mandated that the car meet certain specifications in order to serve as both a land and air vehicle. The tires must be rated for highway speeds, and the wheels must be made of polycarbonate materials in order to prevent shattering in the case of a bird strike.
Despite Terrafugia’s regulatory victories, the public should not expect to see the vehicle on roads this year. After many delays, Terrafugia has announced that it intends to begin public production this year, with plans to ship in late 2012 and a tentative price tag of $250,000. Requiring only a deposit of $10,000 to reserve a future vehicle, Terrafugia has reported that it already has about 100 pre-orders. The company plans to have prototypes ready by March 2012.
Unfortunately, dreams of bypassing traffic with the Transition are still illusory. The vehicle requires 1,700 feet of road for take-off, and thus drivers will still have to fight traffic on the way to an airport in order to become airborne.
- Meredith Lawrence
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