Lots of futuristic things we've been promised haven't arrived, from hoverboards to the 15-hour work week. Flying cars, however, are surprisingly close to widespread availability — one model is even available for preorder. Just as important as figuring out how a flying car can work is figuring out how to integrate it into existing infrastructure. Luckily, we've got futurists working on that too.
Researchers at the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Company have just released a study looking at the environmental sustainable impact of flying cars. All those words do make sense together; these scientists wanted to see how flying cars could fit in with a future that undeniably includes climate change and concerns about social justice. As they're currently imagined or in development, flying cars are best suited to particular situations. More specifically, they're probably going to do really well as taxis, ride-shares, and medium-length trips.
"To me, it was very surprising to see that VTOLs [electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft; flying cars] were competitive with regard to energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in certain scenarios," said senior author Gregory Keoleian in a press release. "VTOLs with full occupancy could outperform ground-based cars for trips from San Francisco to San Jose or from Detroit to Cleveland, for example."
In other words, buckle up, sci-fi fans: Bruce Willis as Korben Dallas, the taxi driver in a flying car in a dense, techno-future city, may not actually be as far-fetched as The Fifth Element would lead you to believe.