Geely acquires U.S. flying-car developer Terrafugia the Aerocars are coming SOON States, Counties and Cities need to develop rules NEWS: another Chinese company, Geely Holding Group, has bought a US company with the intent of bringing disruptive technology to the US by 2019, this time—flying cars:
Zhejiang Geely Holding Group completed the purchase of Terrafugia, a flying-car developer in Woburn, Mass. The deal received approval of all relevant regulators in China and the U.S., Geely said. The company did not disclose the purchase price. Terrafugia will remain based in U.S., Geely said Monday. Terrafugia expects to deliver its first flying car to the market in 2019. It also plans to launch a vehicle capable of vertical takeoff and landing by 2025.
Terrafugia expects to deliver its first flying car to the market in 2019.Terrafugia, founded in 2006 by a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates, wants to develop a flying electric vehicle for the mass market. Terrafugia is Geely’s latest acquisition outside its home market in China.
Forbes, points out that this aerocar will be accompanied by a number of aspiring competitors:
- America’s Moller International,
- China’s EHang,
- the Netherlands’ PAL-V
- Slovakia’s AeroMobil.
- Kitty Hawk, Larry Page, Google’s co-founder
The headaches, which the entrepreneurial UAS manufacturers, generated for the FAA, will grow in rough proportions to the size of a drone v. the mass of an aerocar. The investment needed to design and build these new bimodal vehicles, to meet the FAA and NHTSA requirements, to create a distribution chain, etc. will require that their products literally hit the markets, roads and air quickly. Delay of years, or even less, would equate to billions of dollars of investment without any return.
Perhaps, the FAA recognizes this coming (as soon as 2019?) challenge and is preparing for all of the safety criteria which it must formulate—airworthiness/roadworthiness, operations, ATC procedures/ navigation/communication, driver/pilot licensing and the ever contentious vehicle registration. It obviously must coordinate its standards with its sister agency, NHTSA. With so much at stake, the hand of Congress will “guide” these regulatory processes.
The bimodal aerocar also poses an interesting sovereignty issue– can the FAA’s issuance of rules preempt states and local governments from regulating these air & ground vehicles? Local speed limits, traffic rules, parking, registration, safety, emissions and noise requirements exist in cities, counties and states; they, in the terms of legal scholars, occupy this field.
The aerocars must be subject to these laws.
- Where does the bimodal vehicle leave the city requirements and hits federal control? As it ascends to 400’?
- Can the government most proximate to this transportation manage traffic?
- When an aerocar speeds or “busts” an altitude or both, who detects the violation and prosecutes?
These are not insubstantial questions and the process needed to define what rules apply to the aerocar—on the ground, inflight or in transition—likely would consume more time than the date of the proposed flight. It would seem appropriate for the various state and local government associations (NASAO, the Council of State Governments, National Governors Association, US Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, etc.) to begin the work of establishing reasonable, enforceable laws which meet their provincial needs without balkanizing this new industry!
The recent decision by DOT to devolve some of the UAS development to states and local governments may inspire the evolution of the aerocar regime to initiate the aerocar regime from beyond the Beltway. Perhaps the Department created to assure coordination of transportation between the modes and among the states should fund and lead such an important project NOW! Before the aerocars arrive.
Have you ever noticed that, like all of the above pictures, the aerocar manufacturers display their vehicles in scenes in which their bimodal vehicle has not encountered any aerial traffic! Those familiar with the Jetsons KNOW what the future will look like:
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