A company called Terrafugia is expected to start selling ''The Transition'' late next year. Price: $194,000.
The Jetsons predicted that we'd have flying cars by at least 2062, and Back to the Future promised them to us by 2015. It turns out that reality may, for once, outpace fiction.
A small, privately held company called Terrafugia has recently gained FAA approval for its roadable aircraft (i.e., flying car), and new improvements to the vehicle's design bring it only about a year away from being available to customers, according to MSNBC.
Dubbed "The Transition," Terrafugia's flying car takes the notion of driving a hybrid to a whole new level. The latest model features a more car-like look, with traditional headlights and even a license plate holder. Other new fixtures include an improved wing that folds up with a touch of a switch, like in a convertible car, rear-wheel drive with a continuously variable transmission, independent suspension and even a futuristic touch screen interface in the cockpit.
Aside from the innovative engineering specs, the Transition also performs fairly well with its fuel economy. It gets about 35 miles per gallon on the road and about 490 miles per full tank in the air.
When grounded, the vehicle folds its wings up to achieve legal street-ready dimensions. The concept is for users to be able to drive it from their own garage to a nearby airport, allowing for independent, convenient travel. At the very least, it would help drivers bypass those annoying airport wait times.
Purchasing one of the flying cars won't be cheap. The estimated price for a first-generation Transition is slated at around $194,000. Though that's out of the price range for the average consumer, it's at least an important first step toward bringing childhood fantasies of driving a flying car closer to reality.
Currently, the release date is estimated for late 2011, and the company is already accepting refundable $10,000 deposits to reserve a flying car.
And in case you were wondering, Terrafugia has not yet released any plans to follow up its flying car design with a line of hoverboards, though hardcore Back to the Future fans undoubtedly remain hopeful.
Bryan Nelson is a regular contributor to the Mother Nature Network.