Let’s Talk Sci-Fi – Flying Cars

Attention Sci Fi Nerds of the World,

I’m working on a sci-fi book idea and it is a new experience for me.  So for the next week or so, I’m going to pop in to ask you, the sci-fi nerds of the world, to answer some questions.

Here’s my first one – the flying car – beloved Sci-Fi must-have or outdated trope?

My personal opinion – there are a lot of people, right now, who shouldn’t even be behind the wheel of a regular land car, do we really want them in the equivalent of a small, personal spacecraft?   People would literally drive into buildings every 2 seconds.  And if your mechanic doesn’t check everything, your car is going to drop out of the sky.

Plus, wouldn’t people crash their flying cars into each other constantly?  Is every flying car going to be equipped with some kind of satellite monitoring so they can detect when another car is near so there isn’t a crash?

On the other hand, hey, let’s be honest, they’re cool, and who knows?  Tech might evolve one day to the point where they’re feasible and even idiots can drive them with a minimal amount of damage.

My sci-fi world will most likely have flying cars.  As a potential reader, is that cool or infuriating?

Discuss.

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13 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Sci-Fi – Flying Cars

  1. Fingerling says:

    I think you could make it witty and fun and that it’s a really good idea!

  2. Green Embers says:

    Let’s talk about nifty technology that we have now: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_driverless_car

    In the future it is very likely that cars will be illegal to own and only taxi services will exist, all un-manned. If you want them to fly that would be fine, but yes they would have radar/lidar to detect unwanted collisions. Also all cars would be networked, so every car would know where every other car is (well technically a server run by the cities most likely). Very interesting stuff to think about. 😀

    • I’m not sure I like this idea. Depends on who owns it. The government can’t handle the subway without packing people in like sardines in a tin can so I don’t know they’d do better with a taxi system.

      I do remember in Tom Cruise’s Minority Report, the cars were self-driving and self sufficient. You did own one, but it took you where you wanted to go.

      I feel my hero would not be awesome if he took a taxi everywhere. So as a potential reader, will it bug you if he’s in a flying car?

      • Green Embers says:

        Oh sorry, the government wouldn’t own the taxi services, those would still be privately owned. The great part, like minority report, is when you step in one it will advertise to you non stop! (Note that last sentence was sarcasm, lol).

        Remember driving is not a right, but a privilege that can be revoked at anytime for everyone. If our current government is any consideration they would definitely remove that privilege (easier to play Big Brother).

        But anyway, no it wouldn’t bother me at all if your character was in a flying car. It would be like the 5th Element. 😀

      • Daniel J. Dombrowski says:

        Flying cars are only a sci-fi trope in a negative sense if they exist just because they exist. I like the government owned/mandated angle on self-driving/flying cars. The only way a system like that reasonably works is if it’s controlled by some central computer (or interlinked network of little computers in each car that acts like one big computer). Someone has to get behind and support a system like that. Could be the government. Could be a massive corporation that has the power of a government. Could be something else. Either way, I think its an interesting trope to explore because it can be a window into the way your sci-fi world functions.

      • Thanks! Did you come over from Google+? Lots of good discussions going on over there!

  3. I agree that having flying cars may not be the best idea, but it could be interesting. The flying cars would be sectioned in to lanes and stay in those lanes by invisible fences.

  4. The problem with flying cars – apart from the points you make, which all seem spot on to me – is that the engineering doesn’t stack up. Aircraft need things – like wings, tail, etc – that don’t work on the road. Solutions found so far, like folding them up and towing them behind you, defeat the purpose of the car. Basically, aircraft make bad cars, and cars make bad aircraft; the hardware is incompatible. That’s one of the reasons why they’ve never – er – taken off despite the fact that the ‘flying car’ has to be one of the more enduring of the ‘it hasn’t happened yet, but is gonna…this time…’ variety. To me the endurance of that trope in spite of the hard engineering realities tells me a good deal about social expectations relative to technology.

    Of course, the comic possibilities of klutzy flying cars, hurtling about the skies at the hands of hapless wannabe pilots who shouldn’t even be handling a ground car, seem endless…

    • Most sci-fi films featuring flying cars have crafts that you wouldn’t consider an airplane – i.e. there are no wings, tail, rudders, etc. They basically look like cars, sometimes they’re boxy, sometimes they have various cool designs, sometimes they might have thrusters or something, but the general idea seems to be in the future scientists will figure out a way to make cars that a) fly b) look cool and c) they’ll be more akin to small spaceships than small airplanes.

      Engineering-wise, that doesn’t make sense, but assumably, at least in these future fictional worlds, engineering will somehow change, something will be discovered, something will happen to make these flying contraptions become a reality, even though currently they defy all laws of physics and aerodynamics.

      Personally, I feel like they’ll be crashing into office buildings every five minutes. But then again, I have no faith in humanity.

  5. Erica Lindquist says:

    I think you can go either way – flying cars or no. Just have your reason for your choice and stick to it. Explore it, use it well and nothing else really matters. For my two cents – story is 100%. Science is fun and if you can be accurate, great! But in fiction, all things serve the narrative.

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