Welcome back to the Inside Track, where we gather some of the past month’s best stories about the future of motoring.
Here’s our latest selection:
- In an article for The Economist’s 1843 magazine, Joel Budd considers how driverless cars could leave the suburbs stranded: ‘Driverless cars could lead to nicer, denser city centres even as they make it easier to live miles away from them. Downtowns and distant villages could both become more appealing. But something must lose out, and perhaps that something is the old-fashioned suburb.
- The Atlantic’s Ian Bogost is another writer dealing with subject of driverless cars and what they might change. His recent article contains plenty of insight, although its final question stands out: where are the flying cars? ‘Flying cars have been part of our science-fiction dreams ever since Henry Ford pitched an early personal airplane back in 1926,’ he writes. ‘Ninety years later, discarded prototypes litter junkyards and collectors’ garages, but no viable mass-market product has ever emerged.’
- Is there an answer to Mr Bogost’s question in this BBC article? It’s about a German tech startup called Lilium Aviation, which is developing a ‘100 per cent electric short-haul private jet that may at last fulfil the promise of the flying car’. The concept images are attractive, but the process for mass-marketing this machine promises not to be. As the BBC’s reporter observes, ‘it may be a while before aviation authorities allow vertical take-offs and landings – even computer-guided ones – from the Joneses’ back garden.’
- In fact, out of nowhere, speculation about flying cars is suddenly rife. Bloomberg reports that Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, has put over $100 million of his own money into the technology. What’s striking is how far his plans have already advanced. One of the two – yes, two – flying car companies that he backs ‘now employs close to 150 people’. The article continues: ‘Its operations have expanded to an airport hangar in Hollister, about a 70-minute drive south from Mountain View, where a pair of prototype aircraft takes regular test flights.’
- Meanwhile, another person who is helping to bring about motoring’s future, Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla, revealed that his company’s upcoming Model S ‘floats well enough to turn it into a boat for short periods of time’. There’s even some video to prove it, and, whilst it’s not quite James Bond and his submarine Lotus Esprit, it’s still rather marvellous. After all, it suggests that these electric cars are much lighter than their petrol-engine counterparts, and mix surprisingly well with water.
Look out for the next Inside Track at the end of July!