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Flying cars are a standard sci-fi trope, but will they actually be a reality in 90 years? And even if they are, will they completely replace road cars? Or will the prevalence of road cars be dependent on economic class?

And what about mobile phones. Surely, we will no longer be pulling a device from the pocket -- will we instead have wearable tech to replace the handset?

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    $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome! This is really two questions. Consider splitting it up. Also, the answers will need to be opinion-based, since there is no clear right or wrong answer. Opinion-based questions are generally not allowed here. Consider rephrasing. $\endgroup$ – Klaus Æ. Mogensen Aug 2 at 13:30
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    $\begingroup$ @23fc9a62-56de-47fb-97b4-737890: You are making erroneous assumptions. First, who says flying cars will be piloted solely by people? AI may handle most or all of the flight. Secondly, battery tech might well improve to beat the energy density of gasoline. Impressive advanced have been made just the last ten years or so. Also, a flying car might be fueled by something else entirely. even a microfusion reactor. $\endgroup$ – Klaus Æ. Mogensen Aug 2 at 13:34
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    $\begingroup$ @23fc9a62-56de-47fb-97b4-737890, landing is not difficult in such conditions. Surviving such a landing... that is another story. But the AI Pilot will be living safely in the Cloud and flying by remote, so what does it care. If its passengers want to go down, then down they go! $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Aug 2 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ Seems off-topic to me. Both questions are about predicting the future of this world, not about worldbuilding. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Aug 2 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ I’ve voted to close as primarily opinion based, since the answer to both your questions (they should really be split up by the way) could be yes, no, maybe, in parts, only in the lunar colonies etc etc. Really it’s up to you as a storyteller, so there isn’t a ‘correct’ answer to be had. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Aug 2 at 14:30
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People here argue that "flying cars" are too hard to control, I counter-argue that Drones (Quadrocopters) can already fly autonomously and we are already working on autonomous cars. Smash 'em together and you got your flying car.

If you ask me, regarding flying cars we won't advance that far in that time - normal cars won't be replaced all the way, a lot of laws and infrastructure will need to be adapted for "personal autonomous helicopters" aka flying cars to be a viable option. Probably with a government-provided piece of software that requires sensors to be placed correctly and makes it impossible to move out of (or into) specific areas (personal properties) without permission.

I think a mix of autonomous cars and personal drones might be a realistic setting, with drones being on the rise. 3D-printing and other rapid manufacturing methods, as well as general-purpose hardware and software (AI) can make them cheap!

Regarding cell phones, I think wearable tech should advance a lot, but we gotta keep realistic tech in mind. No holographic displays that project 3d images into thin air. But something like a watch that pops out a foldable display? Or maybe glasses with projection? If tech advances fast enough, contact lenses? Projecting something to the retina? Maybe even a brain interface (a bit scary, old people certainly won't like it)? All realistic. Input into your wearable can have equally different levels of sophistication. Maybe the foldable display is a touch display and it stops at that. Or maybe there's some sort of eye tracker. Or said brain interface.

Edit: Back to cars, people also claim that energy density of batteries vs that of fossil fuels is an issue. It might be now, but will it be in 90 years? I think not, batteries are advancing massively while any fossil fuel tech is stagnating.

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    $\begingroup$ I've seen plans for flying ambulances. There are also plans in the works for autonomous quadrotor taxis. Flying actually makes some autonomous vehicle things easier since you don't have to worry about bicyclists and pedestrians. $\endgroup$ – MongoTheGeek Aug 2 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ If batteries in 90 years are far batter than today, an electric car will take you 10 times farther than a flying car with those same batteries. Flying is not energy efficient. Better batteries won't change physics. $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft Aug 5 at 7:36
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There are "flying cars" in 2019 -- in fact, the first production model came out some years ago. They aren't very good cars, nor are they particularly fine airplanes, but they're road legal and airworthy (at least under Experimental registration).

Will they ever replace road cars 100%? Unlikely, due to economics. Even if they're 100% autonomous and VTOL with ubiquitous landing pads, the need to control weight will probably limit them to sizes that can't compete with large passenger-optimized SUVs or vans. Further, electric power seems to have a much brighter future on the ground than in the air -- because of limited energy storage relative to fossil fuels.

Once fossil fuels fall out of use (which they must, if we're to continue living on Earth), aircraft will most likely change their nature in a significant way that we can't fully foresee -- but electric cars are already commercially available at only a small price premium over conventional cars in the same category.

Mobile phones have managed to combine with mobile computing devices in a way that makes it seem unlikely (to me) that they'll completely change to a wearable device. Smart watches have too small a display for practical computing use, HUD devices like Glass will have limited markets (too distracting, require wearing a unit normally associated with a small social stigma, control issues). The appearance an interface of smart phones will continue to change, but decoupling the phone from the smart isn't likely to happen in the foreseeable future. If anything, the "phone" function will become a more and more marginalized part of the computing device.

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    $\begingroup$ additional negative points on flying cars: any spatial position a streetcar assumes during travel, it can hold at zero energy cost, and zero interference (aka: stopping) flying cars have to accelerate air or they will lose their position (aka: drop) - this not only costs energy, but also interferes with the environs in a much more noticeable way: five cars rolling through a street will cause much less trouble than five hovercraft/quadcopters/planes/flap-wings doing the same. $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Aug 2 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ Autonomous machines with inter-machine communication and coordination will solve the issues with stopping in the air being necessary. Altitude will keep the downwash off the ground, except during landing and take-off. Nothing will solve the energy issue -- which is why we won't have full-electric airliners. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Aug 2 at 14:59
  • $\begingroup$ Abundant energy (fusion, cheap solar,...) makes hydrogen as electric energy go-between feasible. The power densities of electric engines are great. If truly cheap energy is in, so are electeic flyers. $\endgroup$ – bukwyrm Aug 2 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ Even with cheap hydrogen, the energy density of a hydrogen storage system plus fuel cell (in kWH/kg) is not much better than LiFePo4 batteries -- if at all -- and unless fuel cells get a lot more robust and cheaper over the next century, batteries will still be the preferred form of electrical storage. They may switch from lithium to sodium due to shortages, but it's looking like that's not going to be a big step back. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Aug 2 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ Why assume the smaller weight would be a disincentive to buy them? As long as they weren't cramped to an uncomfortable degree, even if they weren't quite as nice they still might have an advantage in being able to get people where they wanted to go faster. $\endgroup$ – Hypnosifl Aug 3 at 3:52
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Short Answer: No

Long Answer: With regard to their high popularity and low usefulness, flying cars are like manned space travel. Romantic, ingrained in pop-culture etc, but actually a really bad idea. Why? Physics.

What are the advantages of a flying car over a ground car?
- (possible) Speed
- Freedom of of Movement (3D not 2D), no congestion up to a certain point.

What are the downsides?
- With drones and other unmanned air vehicles becoming ever more popular and increasing air travel, airspace is not as abundant as it may seem.
- In the future, flying might not even be the fastest mode of travel (vacuum trains etc. come to mind)

But the main downside, and the reason why I dare to be so certain about this, is just physics. Why do the work of lifting something (including the fuel which powers this) into the air just to travel? Its just incredible inefficient. Its used today in airplanes for speed and crossing bodies of water, but only the superrich can afford a plane for personal travel.

I can imagine tunnel networks, vacuum tubes, autonomous supersonic vehicles, space elevators and the like. But flying cars for personal travel are gimmicky and just a very popular trope.

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Other answers on flying cars are correct, but I would like to add another problem: safety. You can keep road cars out by building a fence. How would you keep flying cars out? A dome?

The only way flying cars (or drones) will become mainstream is if they are automated and controlled by an established and heavily regulated company. So taxis, or leases.

And as others said, difference in cost of fuel and hardware will keep road cars viable in the budget segment. Flying cars will be taxis for emergencies, and luxuries for the rich.

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  • $\begingroup$ good point, and I'd been thinking about the safety aspect for a while. My own view on flying cars is that they will be autonomous and that they will only fly a short distance (20 feet?) above the ground. And not in built up or residential areas... $\endgroup$ – Hugs Aug 3 at 6:00
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Flying cars are a reality now; they're essentially small cars that can be converted into small planes. Whether this type of vehicle will ever replace road cars to any significant degree, let alone 100%, is... questionable.

What I suspect you're really asking is "Will we all have hovercars in 90 years?" No one can say for sure, but I doubt it. Flight requires lift, and the most fuel-efficient way to generate lift is with wings-- sure, you could strap a few rockets to the bottom of your car and let 'em rip, but the fuel cost of your daily commute would be staggering.

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Flying cars will never really be a thing

While it's already technologically possible, what you get is a car that's not a great car and not a great aircraft. Given that the average person has enough trouble with current cars, putting them into a situation where turning circles and braking distances can be measured in miles rather than meters* would put the incident and casualty rates past acceptable.

You may get a personal flying transport, it's unlikely, you absolutely won't have manual control of it. The safety requirements will overrule all other considerations.

Everyone having a car may no longer be a thing anyway

The centralised nature of our cities and civilisation requires a lot of transportation of people. Already the internet and related technologies has significantly reduced the practical requirement for many people to attend a place of work. The primary reason to be physically present now has more to do with culture than the nature of the work. Expect a reduced requirement to physically attend a place of work leading to a more decentralised population and fewer personal journeys required on a day to day basis. Your shopping will be delivered by a drone (not necessarily a flying one), transportation of your person will be by an automated Uber equivalent (possibly flying but unlikely).

Major driving routes will probably have some sort of power infrastructure to allow continuous travel over long distances without needing to recharge an electric vehicle, this technology will supersede the benefit of flying for all short and most medium range travel.

Your phone

May not change all that much, though this depends a lot on display and interface technologies. Currently these are the core factors in the design of a phone, you need a large enough screen and a large enough control surface. Should these be replaced by some sort of virtual projection then your phone could easily become a watch or headset. I'd err towards Pip-Boy/Smart Watch with projected interfaces if pushed.


*I'm English, we mix units, alliteration is better, sue me.

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Neither flying cars nor cell phones will exist in 2110.

The famines will lead to food riots then on to full eco-war.

When the powers-that-be realize that there is no other solution, they will release the plagues.

After that, the age of technology will end.

A greatly diminished, planet-friendly humanity will rise to wander the earth on foot and to communicate in the original face-to-face manner.

If you ask me, flying cars and communications-implants will someday exist, but it will be closer to 3110 than next century.

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