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Having ubiquitous civilian flying machines would be a hazard for security, and a very useful attack vector for terrorism.

  • Guards that only had to watch out the horizon now have a full 3-d sphere to watch for.
  • A car crash usually kills the car occupants, but now they can fall on passerby below. Or instead of hitting just a guard rail / water barrel it goes straight into your bathroom and kills you during your shower (at least the neighbor won't have to endure your bad singing anymore).
  • A larger population presses the government for control over air traffic.

So our beloved flying cars are ever more out of our grasp.

From the early 21st century onwards, how could flying cars become more of a possibility?

Differs from Designing a traffic system for flying cars because that question assumes flying cars are already a reality. I'm asking how they could come to be a reality.

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    $\begingroup$ Getting them to fly is the hard part. Flying cars, with similar precautions as we take with normal cars would probably have as many accidents, tops. There is less to hit 100 feet up. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson May 27 '16 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ On a road you are, effectively, operating in a one dimensional environment; intersections and additional lanes adding a bit extra, but mostly a one dimensional environment. A flying vehicle jumps straight to 3 dimensions; unless it is tightly controlled any given trajectory is going to intersect at least one other, probably several. Popular destinations will become mass graves in short order. $\endgroup$ – Seeds May 27 '16 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ It couldn't be possible in Ecuador and Argentina XDDDDDD I imagine things by far worse than 9/11 $\endgroup$ – Luis Masuelli May 28 '16 at 1:15
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Safety: Flying cars would reduce traffic density. If the cars can operate at, say, 100 different levels, then you have only 1% as much traffic at each level. Thus there is less chance that a moment of inattention will result in an accident.

On the other hand, you can now be hit by things coming from above or below as well as in 2D. It's more difficult for a human operator to manage.

On a road, if you see that you're in danger of collision, you may or may not be able to veer left or right to avoid it. There may be traffic in those lanes too, or obstructions on the side of the road. For flying cars, there might be other traffic, but there's not likely to be obstructions. And you avoid the collission by going up or down instead of left or right.

Airplanes today have a variety of collission avoidance systems. It seems likely that flying cars would, too. At the very least, something that would sound an alarm if you or another flying car are on a collission course.

Yes, when two flying cars collide they could fall on a bystander below. But when two cars today collide they might hit a bystander. As flying cars wouldn't be limited to roads, I'd think they'd be less likely to hit pedestrians. The probability that you will hit someone if you drop a rock from a random point in the sky over North America is way less than the probability that you will hit someone if you throw a rock from a random point on a paved road in North America.

Crime: Yes, I suppose it's true that criminals could use flying cars to circumvent things like fences, thus making security more difficult. I doubt this would be a serious obstacle to their development and use, though. Lots of inventions can be used for sinister purposes. We look for ways to protect ourselves, but we rarely abandon a technology because of this.

Like, talking over cell phones rather than face to face creates the possibility that someone could monitor the radio waves and eavesdrop on your conversation. How many people refuse to use cell phones because of this possibility? How many say that cell phones should be illegal because of this possibility? Or, someone could use a big heavy coat to hide a weapon. Does anyone seriously suggest that heavy coats should be illegal, and we should all have to freeze in the winter, because some use heavy coats to hide weapons? One could come up with thousands of such examples.

I presume that if flying cars became technologically practical, yes, criminals would use them to their advantage, and law-abiding people would look for ways to protect themselves. If flying cars were common, then a fence or even a stone wall would be almost useless for keeping people out. People who wever extremely security conscious might build domes over their property. People might rely on alarms that use radar or some such technology to detect when someone crosses the perimeter and sound an alarm. There might be higher-tech solutions, like force fields.

I think the real barrier to flying cars is cost. The technology has existed for decades to build helicopters. So why aren't we all travelling around in helicopters? That's pretty much the equivalent of a flying car. You could say because few people know how to fly one. But if they were readily available, people would learn. When the automobile was first invented few people knew how to drive one. The real problem is cost: A helicopter costs way more to buy than a car, and it uses way more energy so it is more expensive to operate.

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Here are the main factors as I see it:

AI (or thereabouts) Level Software

With cars zipping about all over the place it will be incredibly important to keep track of where they all are, how fast they're going, and whether there's a risk of a collision.

In fact, my guess would be that these things would most likely be driven by that traffic system just to be safe.

Nothing we have today could do that if flying cars became as ubiquitous as normal cars are right now.

Incredibly Advanced Diagnostics Systems

Consider how many poorly maintained cars are driving around on the roads on any given day. How many people spin out as soon as some rain falls because their tires had barely any grip left? How many people spin out on the first few days of snow because they don't bother installing their winter tires? How many people rear end someone because they didn't get their brakes changed out on when they should have?

Now add another thousand or so critical maintenance points, and I think we'll have a fair idea of what it will take to keep a flying brick .. erm, car .. in the air on a daily basis.

Without software capable of assessing the condition of the system, and either warning the user that they should perform certain maintenance, or denying the them the ability to endanger others, we're screwed, as dozens of these will be dropping out of the sky on any given day.

That we would have an insane amount of rules and regulations regarding our traffic goes without saying.

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  • $\begingroup$ All you show is the difficulty of a completely fail safe flying car. If people accept that accidents happen you don't need such systems. $\endgroup$ – Donald Hobson May 27 '16 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ You forgot to mention the spin outs and rear endings caused simply by operator error. I think the AI level software would have to do the actual "driving" of all the vehicles. $\endgroup$ – Seeds May 27 '16 at 20:15
  • $\begingroup$ @DonaldHobson - " All you show is the difficulty of a completely fail safe flying car" <- I disagree. I think that even with those systems in place there would still be a large number of accidents happening. On the contrary, I believe that those systems would be the bare necessities needed to make the system viable. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM May 27 '16 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ They have the technology for self-driving cars, or at least basic levels of it. If that was applied to flying cars, we simply have automated traffic flow. Would that fit your AI level software? If you remove the human interaction of driving, it should significantly reduce human-stupidity induced accidents. $\endgroup$ – ChronoD May 27 '16 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ @ChronoD - I think similar software for flying cars would have to be way more advanced. I also think that automated traffic control (so an integrated network of all cars) would also be required, and finally, a crazy level of security to keep that system from being hacked. That's why I just simplified the concept by calling it an AI, or near AI. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM May 27 '16 at 20:24
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The computer networking capacity already exists to coordinate self-driven vehicles. It is more probable a system would be developed for installation in the new category of flying cars before a complete refit of all ground transport vehicles would happen. The motivation is the same for both: less accidents than with human drivers. The system could force-land any car endangering someone. Proliferation would be slow until costs can be brought down to earth, so only those who can afford it would pioneer the private airway system while it is being perfected to handle greated traffic. Automation through air traffic control would also alleviate security issues as the system would make flying cars impossible to be flown outside designated corridors. (Remember Back to the Future II? They had boundary-marked "fly-ways")

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