Move over self-driving cars. Another car of the future has arrived, or is at least promised to. PAL-V, a Dutch company who has been playing with flying cars for years, is proudly announcing the start of pre-orders for what it bills to be the world’s first commercially available flying car. And while it may indeed be able to deliver on that promise in terms of technical capability, the fine print is going to prevent anyone except affluent true believers from experiencing that piece of the future today.
Next to (real) hoverboards and jetpacks, flying cars is one of the puzzles of science fiction that engineers and designers have been trying to crack in order to bring to reality. PAL-V itself has been working on that for nearly a decade, with its first prototypes dating back to 2009. Now it is confident that its solution has reached a level of maturity enough to actually sell such an experimental form of transportation, named the Liberty Sport for the base model and Liberty Pioneer for the more premium trim.
Throw away all your preconceived ideas of what a flying car would look like and how it would work. Not unless your image is that of a cross between a helicopter and a trike. The more proper technical term would be a gyroplane, says PAL-V, and it has practical benefits over a regular plane design or a helicopter. It’s more stable than the latter but also more compact than the former, as the propellers easily fold out of the way. However, unlike a helicopter, it can’t take off or land vertically and still needs a bit of a runway for that.
Revolutionary products like these will naturally raise questions about legality and regulations. PAL-V assures that the Liberty was a designed to comply with aviation and car regulations both in the European Union and the United States. It implies that there doesn’t need to be any change of regulations to accommodate this flying car, unlike ground-based self-driving cars. But those regulations probably never envisioned a single vehicle that can both drive on land as well as fly in the air.
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that this slice of the future will cost you an arm and a leg. The base Liberty Sport alone costs $399,000 while the more proper Liberty Pioneer is $599,000. That’s exclusive of taxes, mind you. PAL-V does offer down payment options, but those go only as low as $10,000.