Terrafugia Unveils New TF-X Project, Talks Future of Flying Cars

5/6/13Follow @gthuang

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“It’s an eight-to-10-year process,” Dietrich says, “but we believe it’s possible to increase the level of safety while simultaneously making it easier to operate an aircraft.”

At least one outside expert seems intrigued by the concept of TF-X. Greg Bowles, director of engineering and manufacturing for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, calls it “novel and exciting.” He adds that “the global authorities have been working to adapt regulations for future products such as the TF-X.”

If Terrafugia can meet those safety requirements, that could lead to a cascade of effects. If private planes are safer and easier to operate, Dietrich says, “we can put it within reach of a much broader segment of the population. Doing that, we open up the market.” With more demand, he says, the company (and others) could potentially use different manufacturing techniques, costs could go down, and the vehicle’s price tag could go down, further opening the market.

The potential impact on the economy? Dietrich quotes a study that says 127 million U.S. commuters spend 52 minutes a day in their cars driving at an average speed of 17 miles per hour. He says if all of them (hypothetically) commuted via TF-X, it would effectively inject $800 billion a year into the national economy, in terms of wages and productivity.

Meanwhile, the wait continues for the company’s first product, Transition (pictured in flight), to roll out. Dietrich’s team is currently consumed with what seem like minor details—how the airbags deploy, the exact position of the engine in the craft, and so forth. But it’s these details, he hopes, that will lead the vehicle to exceed customer expectations once it’s in their hands. And from there, maybe for the first time in a while, Dietrich seems completely convinced of the company’s bigger vision—and its roadmap to get there.

“It provides a new freedom that doesn’t exist today,” he says. “This sort of thing has the potential to be disruptive to personal transportation, to the automotive as well as the aviation industry.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1257663063 Charles Beyer

    I can’t wait for these to hit the market!

    • Ray

      It’s never going to happen. Do you know how much work goes into making sure the planes that are currently in the air from crashing into each other in the air on on the strip? Multiply that by about a few million cars and you’ll have a disaster in the making

      • http://www.facebook.com/doodly.stuudmuffin Doodly Stuudmuffin

        Yeah. And I imagine drunk drivers crashing down onto the rest of us. Great.

  • flukes

    “They promised us flying cars. Instead we got 140 characters.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Art-Salmons/100001016539462 Art Salmons

    I hope they’re good at engineering, because they’re BAD at concept art.

  • Walter Jeffries

    Flying cars are a really bad idea. As shown by the accident reports the vast majority of people can not handle driving in two dimensions. Add another dimension and the accident rate will skyrocket. Add altitude and speed and the death rate will climb even more dramatically. Perhaps we should consider this evolution at work. Call the car “Darwin”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/TomEWilliams Tom Williams

      Hopefully with this people would rely on the self-flying aspect much more than manual controls.

  • Laughing Skeptic

    Clearly this thing can’t fly slowly, which makes it very dangerous as a commuter vehicle. I don’t see a mention of a ballistic parachute, without one a power failure will result in a certain fatal crash. A CarterCopter makes way more sense for point-to-point commuting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dokidokinyannyan Dokidoki Nyannyan

    I saw 2 self-driving cars in the span of 5 minutes today and yet I saw 0 self-flying cars.

  • zdaxxy

    This is still using dated technology. How about working towards anti-gravity devices.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeremy-Keller/1549884122 Jeremy Keller

    I think the TF-X is my favourite flying car to date, despite being just a concept. I would therefore like it to enter commercial production in the not too distant future, and not have to wait till next decade for it. I think CG should be able to see to that.
    Furthermore, the Maverick, referred to as the flying car that does, already appears to be on the market. I would now like such technology to catch on, and catch on in style. I think the Maverick resembles a pre-war racing car to some extent. I therefore think Terrafugia should design their answer to the Maverick. I don’t really think the 40mph top air speed is much of a handicap.
    I am very much in favour of flying cars and would even like them and flying cars to displace the conventional aeroplanes and helicopters altogether, except perhaps for special occasions.
    I am featured on the BBC website and anxious to bring my weblinks to everyone’s attention. To find me on Facebook just search for:
    car
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  • jeremykeller

    On the 9th of August of 2012 I dreamt that a lorry could be transformed into a passenger aircraft using the hidden wings it had. I believe it was supposed to offer a service to Ireland.
    At the time I was convinced the technology had finally arrived. I was therefore later disappointed to learn that it was just a dream.

  • jeremykeller

    Will the TF-X really enter commercial production next decade? After all, was the de Havilland Comet unveiled as a concept back in 1940? Visually the TF-X is my favourite flying car to date, despite being just a concept. But what makes Terrafugia think it’ll be commercially successful? So many flying car ventures seem to have failed in the past. Furthermore, I do believe the Moller Skycar was already a concept back in 1999.

    I am very much in favour of flying cars and would even like flying cars and flying saucers to displace the conventional aeroplanes and helicopters altogether, except perhaps for special occasions.

    Already the Maverick, referred to as the flying car that does, seems to work. I would therefore like the technology to catch on, and catch on in style. I certainly don’t think the 40mph air speed should be considered a handicap. I therefore think the flying cars using the Maverick technology should resemble the pre-war racing cars, but with extra seats.
    I am featured on the BBC website and anxious to bring my weblinks to everyone’s attention. To find me on Facebook just search for:
    car
    flying car
    Maverick
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