The Times:Sci-fi becomes fact as flying cars get ready for take-off


You wait decades since the 1950s sci-fi boom for evidence that we might be getting into flying cars or going to the shops strapped into a jetpack — and then two companies come along saying we are going to be there sooner than you think.

Airbus, the European aerospace giant better known for building jetliners, has said that a self-piloted flying car will be on the road, and in the air, by the end of the year.

Separately Ruopeng Liu, a mechanical engineer and technology investor, has taken a key stake in a Dorset-based engineering company that is already making the engines turning jetpacks and flying cars into a reality.

Announcing plans to mobilise his low-profile Urban Air Mobility unit to unlock the gridlock on the roads, Tom Enders, Airbus’s chief executive, said yesterday: “One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground. Now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground.”

Putting a date of the end of this year to get a prototype single-person air transport vehicle up and running, he said: “We are in an experimentation phase. If we ignore these developments, we will be pushed out of important segments of the business.”

He said that Britain is the home of the industrial revolution and the engine. “That is why we have come here,” he said. “Investing in British start-ups and technology companies in the growth stage is a key part of our long-term strategic plan to invest in the most exciting and disruptive technologies around the world.” Dr Liu has been likened by the Chinese media to Elon Musk, the North American tycoon who founded Tesla cars and the SpaceX project to take tourists into space.

He has become well known in China as a supporter of technologies better known in the movies. Kuang-Chi, whose motto is Future is Now, has invested in unmanned aviation and drones in Canada and in artificial intelligence and biometrics companies in Israel. It has also developed the Cloud, a giant tethered near-space station to help to develop the connected supercities of the future.


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