Speaking today at SXSW, AeroMobil CEO Juraj Vaculik argued that his flying car is more than just an interesting prototype, and that he hopes to release the first model of "wealthy supercar buyers" by 2017. Vaculik spoke about how he dreamed of a flying car for the first time 25 years ago, looking for a way to escape an oppressive political regime in Czechoslovakia. "We need another revolution, we need a revolution in personal transportation." If that metaphor isn't enough for you, Vaculik moved on to identify three new "prisons" afflicting modern commuters just like (apparently) a communist regime: the traffic prison, the airport prison, and the prison of bad infrastructure. Vaculik also thinks that self-driving cars are only a "partial" solution. The real solution, he says, are flying cars.
All three are serious problems for car-based transit, yes, but I'm dubious that flying cars are the best solution (or even a good solution) for any or all of them. Vaculik says he's very serious about the possibilities, though, laying out a history of the engineering behind flying cars. AeroMobile started prototyping by hanging models on the front of cars and driving around, because the company didn't have access to wind tunnels. Vaculik showed a prototype from a couple of years ago, and then version 3.0 of the car, shown in October 2014.
The new model is apparently robust enough to be able to take off and land from grass strips, not just airport runways. So Vaculik imagines large grass strips next to freeways and gas stations, which would increase the number of places you could take the car. That's all well and good, but AeroMobile would actually need to convince municipalities to build such things — not to mention ensure it doesn't run afoul of regulations. Responding to a question about that last issue, Vaculik said his car will fit into pre-existing categories for both planes and cars. So you'd need to be a certified pilot to operate the vehicle.
The first commercial product will be a two seater and include a parachute — AeroMobil is targeting 2017 for launch. It's not clear whether AeroMobil will be able to actually achieve that goal, but it does seem like the first prototype is working. Speaking after the event, Vaculik said the biggest work that needs to be done revolves around adding all the basic safety component necessary in a car and an airplane. He also noted that the company is still experimenting with different engines and will be conducting crash testing soon.
Of course, that target market of "wealthy supercar buyers" is a clear sign that concerns about the price of flying cars aren't going away. Asked about whether this would become nothing more than a "hobby for the rich," Vaculik expressed hope that the cost of technology always drops — but he also declined to name a specific price beyond that it would be over a "couple of hundred thousand" Euro.
After that model, AeroMobile wants to release a four-seater flying car designed to be fully autonomous. If a the pie-in-the-sky dream of the flying car wasn't enough, now you can hope for a self-driving/self-flying car. Because it's SXSW, Vaculik said he was looking forward to "Flying Uber or flying Lyft." And because it's SXSW, it was fitting that we heard that Dean Kamen, the creator of the Segway scooter, is joining the board of advisors for AeroMobil.