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A Brief History of the Flying Car

GOOD IDEAS NEVER DIE. But bad ideas, they don’t die easily either. The difference between a groundbreaking idea and a stupid one, though, is judged by history -- one new invention can change a momentous hack into a much-lauded genius.

This seems to be the case with the concept of the flying car. Although often cast as just another idealistic thought hatched in the brains of science-fiction authors, the idea of a flying car, in reality, has been around nearly as long as automobiles themselves. But flying cars have never taken off as a form of transportation.

Luckily, emerging technologies, including new forms of propulsion and lightweight materials, are now enabling some of these pipe dreams to come to fruition. Unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with rush-hour-ready features like vehicle-to-vehicle communication with nearby aircraft and automatic avoidance of unexpected objects are trailblazers in autonomous flight. These features, combined with the availability of lighter-than-air new carbon composites for the body of the vehicle, mean that your chances of witnessing the long-awaited birth of the flying car have never been better.

Unfortunately, the odds still remain remote: Despite every advance, it seems that economics and physics conspire to ground the idea. Here’s a look at the long, tortured path of genius and doom-struck tenacity that is the history of the flying car.