The future is going to be terrible. It just is, and there's nothing you or I can do about it. There have been, in every era, two competing visions for the era's future, and invariably one of them is a spotlessly clean utopia and the other is a dystopian hellscape. We're getting the hellscape, there's just no question about it. We're getting full-on “Blade Runner” or “Escape From New York.” Whether it's because of climate change, a pandemic, or people voting for the reality television rape guy to run the country, nobody really tries to pitch the non-apocalyptic version anymore.
No, we can all finally come to agreement: We're screwed.
You're probably asking what brought this on, and since misery loves company I'm going to show you. This week brings us the news that a new startup backed in part by SpaceX, the place that Elon Musk once pretended to run before he turned to shitposting as his full-time hobby, has just received the go-ahead from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin flight testing its (sigh) new flying car. It's the first time a flying car has received its Special Airworthiness Certification, says the company.
That's right, the future is here. For an estimated retail price of $300,000, you'll be about to purchase your very own flying car, which may be available as soon as 2025, but don't bet on it, and by flying car we mean flying golf cart because in order to get this thing off the ground it's going to have to do away with most of the safety features that make a car a car.
Alef reports that their Model A will hold up to two passengers, and have a driving range of 200 miles and a flying range of 110 miles on one charge. But to avoid automobile crash-test laws and other regulations, it will have a 25mph limit, and drive more like a golf cart than a car.
Ah yes, the old "let's dodge safety regulations with the design of our new innovative vehicle, what can go wrong" play. Nothing ever goes wrong with that.
Here's a video promoting what this new version of the future looks like, and right off the bat you know they're overselling it because there are lush green forests in their future and we know that's a pipe dream and a half.
This looks wonderful, you say. Finally the flying golf carts we were promised, you say. What child has not dreamed of owning their own VTOL-capable Camaro, even if it's one that looks like the offspring between a sports car and a pasta strainer—and finally it is coming to pass.
Like most sports cars, there are some tradeoffs. It will fit only a driver and one (1) passenger, and God help you if you expect to cart along anything but a pair of sandwiches because there ain't no trunk.
Unlike most sports cars, it can only go 25 miles per hour because with this thing being mostly a wire-frame approximation of what a car would be, if you hit anything on the ground while going faster than 25mph, as one Jalopnik commenter pointed out, the crumple zone "appears to be your face."
Right off the bat, then, we're stuck in a vision of the future that sees these things sharing our roadways with our burgeoning population of SUVs with front hoods too high to even see these things and front wheels that seem likely to crush your $300,000 flying car like a paper cup. And if that's fine with you, as a consumer, I suppose I have no right to complain but I'm going to do it anyway because after a hundred years of dreaming about flying cars nobody has ever, ever been able to explain why a future of individually piloted hovercars would in any way work out, much less not be a dystopian nightmare in which you're constantly dodging the sharp edges of falling debris as a nation full of barely-licensed new car pilots make our current highways look positively sedate in comparison.
The premise of the flying car has always been simple. You are on the road, being a car. But ha! Something happens, and you do not want to be on the road any more! Possibly, as in the video above, there is a horrific traffic accident just up ahead and people are either dying or are already dead; wouldn't you like to be able to push a button to turn your car into a helicopter, making a neat vertical takeoff and floating just over the heads of the victims and emergency responders so you can get on with your day?
And if you could do that, why would you drive anywhere? Why wouldn't you just VTOL your way up and over the supermarket parking lot, rather than trying to drive out through the crowded lanes like some sort of chump? Just you, and either one passenger or a few bags of groceries but absolutely not both, flying over the neighborhood.
What will a drone the size of a sports car sound like, taking off? Can you imagine the noise created, if you're a pedestrian on the sidewalk and suddenly the driver of a "flying car" starts spinning up eight high-powered propellers, creating sufficient thrust to lift a small car off the ground while incidentally pelting everyone in the general vicinity with the road debris kicked up in the process? If it's six in the morning and your neighbor needs to get to the office, does it sound like eight lawnmowers have simultaneously started up and launched themselves slowly and whimsically into flight directly above your roof?
Even the most mundane of considerations would turn this version of the future into hell on earth. "Ah, traffic is bad today," you will say as you plod along at 23mph instead of your strictly regulated 25mph. So you will press the button, and slowly rise above the traffic and—whoops, it turns out there was an overhead power line there and your left and right eyeballs are now detached by 20 feet or so as your battery-powered luxury vehicle hits the lines and explodes into a lithium hellfire with you in it.
Who's going to pay to bury all the power lines, in this version of the future? We're going to bet the future still has politicians, and that means it sure as hell isn't going to be people who can afford $300,000 golf carts footing that bill.
Now, I'm grumpy. I'm feeling mean and spiteful, and it's all because even in the best versions of the future we can imagine now, all we can imagine is lining up for crowded morning commutes in tiny flying hovercars that each have the survivability of a billionaire's custom-built deep ocean sub, if any of them hit anything larger than a seagull.
Forget having lush green evergreen forests. I'm not sure we'll ever have a future in which moderately rich assholes aren't dumping the remains of their lukewarm morning coffee over your house as they fly off to commit some new horrible sin, like linking up flying cars to their cryptocurrency or competing to see whose newly invented chatbot will be the first to reinvent Nazis from scratch.
"We're excited to receive this certification from the FAA. It allows us to move closer to bringing people an environmentally friendly and faster commute, saving individuals and companies hours each week. This is a one small step for planes, one giant step for cars," said the company's CEO in a press release, and now I'm even angrier about the future because every private household owning their own flying car in order to speed up their "commute" is never going to be "environmentally friendly," not ever, and it imagines a future in which technology is so advanced that we get flying cars and yet commercial real estate developers and large-scale employers are still going to insist that everybody "commute" to their office buildings rather than working online and doing no commuting at all.
When I was a kid, sure. I used to dream about having a flying car. But even when I was a grade schooler, I instinctively understood that nobody else should have a flying car, because I mean c'mon. Look at the quality of our adults these days, and tell me that you'd trust even half of them with a stepladder.