We were promised flying cars

#One of the most popular cultural motifs is that of the dramatic difference between the futuristic utopia promised to us by science fiction in the past and reality today. The line has many variations, but is structured roughly like this: “We were told that in 2022 we would be riding flying cars. And in reality we rode some scooters”.

The focus is on the disjuncture between the futuristic optimism of science fiction decades ago and the cascade of crises we live in today. But what’s really going on with flying cars? Western novels and Hollywood movies had programmed into us the expectation that the first air cars for personal use would arrive in some familiar English-speaking metropolis like New York or Los Angeles. London as a last resort. There is also logic – after all, the USA is the birthplace of the aircraft industry, and it was in America that the car became an affordable machine for the masses for the first time.

But the reality on the ground surprises us again. Or at least it would surprise our selves from a decade or two ago. Today, there is no particular shock on the faces of people who read the news about the Chinese flying car tested in Dubai. The last decade has made such sentences commonplace.

Exciting documentary footage made the rounds last month. Chinese e-car company Xpeng Inc’s X2 model has made its first flight in the United Arab Emirates. For years, Dubai in particular has been branded as a mecca of futuristic technology and a modern temple of all kinds of innovation.

The demonstration debut flight lasted 90 seconds, and the machine floated in the air without a pilot, or if you like – a driver. The vehicle looks like a hybrid between a car and a large drone, and the company aims to start serious production for international markets soon.

Xpeng Inc described the achievement as “an important step towards the next generation of flying cars”. The Chinese manufacturers said they chose Dubai because it is “the most innovative city in the world”.

Now go back in time and tell people even from the 90s the same sentence. You will make a face of shock.

“Dubai as the most innovative, high-tech and futuristic place in the world? And China as the first manufacturer of flying cars?’

They won’t believe it.

This actually proves how much human civilization has changed in the last thirty years.

Maybe the future is already here. Some modern philosophers and science fiction fans have actually argued for some time that we inhabit a specific cyberpunk mode—advanced technology coexisting with primitive conflicts and relationships. Unthinkable wealth and access to scientific achievements contrast with crime, poverty and dysfunction.

And yet – a Chinese flying car debuts in Dubai. The West should be ashamed. He lets go of the reins of the coming day.

Gives initiative. Of course, we also have Elon Musk, who makes revolutionary space rockets, electric cars, and has already taken on the task of changing the information environment in digital terms with the acquisition of Twitter. And all this without forgetting about his dream of colonizing Mars. Other Western mega-entrepreneurs such as Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson are developing another futuristic vector – space tourism. For now, only the ultra-rich and celebrities like Star Trek legend William Shatner.

Still, the first functional flying car probably won’t be from one of our well-known Western – or Japanese – brands. But it is very likely that in the coming decades a spectacular geopolitical and economic competition between manufacturers of floating cars will begin. And we may stay firmly on the asphalt and similar demonstrations like the one in Dubai a few days ago will turn out to be just a manifestation of exotic tourist branding. But there’s something really nostalgic about the idea of ​​flying cars. Popular culture has a key role to play here.

In the mid-1980s, the comedy sci-fi classic Back to the Future promised cars in the air as early as 2015. Director Robert Zemeckis and the rest of the filmmakers clearly overestimated humanity. The classic animated series The Jetsons incorporated flying cars into their vision of the future as early as 1962. According to Sir Ridley Scott’s masterpiece “Blade Runner” we also had to soar among the skyscrapers.

The truth is that there is no scientific consensus on the inevitability of flying cars. Tomorrow is a blank slate for technological minds to paint a futuristic landscape. More and more often we look up to the sky to catch a glimpse of another small drone with which a family in the park or a young person with a vlog fills their time. Who knows, we may be looking up for another reason relatively soon – waiting for someone to take us in the flying car to a party on the 632nd floor of a new business building. Or in the good old pub – as long as there’s somewhere to park the air machine.

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