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The Skycar

Imagine having no traffic to deal with. Merging onto a busy highway every morning? No thanks, I'm good here, cruising along at 5,000 feet, snickering quietly at your misfortune. No, I'm not in a commuter jet. Nor am I in a helicopter, crop dusting biplane, or an ultralight aircraft. I am comfortably piloting the next great leap (or several leaps) in transportation technology: Moller International's M400 Skycar. Welcome to the future, Mr. and Mrs. Jetson.

The M400 utilizes vertical take off and landing (VTOL) technology similar to a Harrier jet or a Marine Corps Osprey aircraft. That means it can hover, take off straight up and land straight down, just like a helicopter. Moller International, also called MI in the industry, reports that they have created the first workable, relatively affordable, VTOL equipped, personally operated vehicle that anyone on Earth has ever seen. Some of the proposed specifications are nothing short of astonishing. The M400 can cruise at 275 miles per hour (MPH), and has a top speed of 360 MPH. Using clean burning ethanol and modified rotary engines, it can carry four passengers around 750 miles, all the while getting about 20 miles per gallon. The price that MI is shooting for once they enter production will be around $100,000. The maximum altitude attainable is 25,000 feet, which, when taken with everything else, makes this seem like science fiction. It is actually science fact.

Most people today have no frame of reference with which to base a judgment about the M400. The closest thing that most of us have to compare it to is our own automobiles. That's not such a bad contrast, so let's use them for a little while. How can the most technologically advanced cars that money can buy stack up against the M400? We shall see, comparing the Skycar against Lamborghinis, Porsches, Ferraris, and Maseratis.

  • Lamborghini Murceilago: The cruising speed is nowhere near 275, and it wouldn't be feasible anyway since you would be on the ground. Unleaded gasoline, can only carry two passengers, and has a maximum range of 343 miles. Price tag = $362,000.

  • Porsche 911 GT3: Unleaded gasoline, also only carries two passengers, and has a maximum range of 371 miles. The GT3 is also equipped with an on-board computer, a 6.5 touchscreen monitor, automatic extending rear spoiler, rain sensing windshield wipers, and dual front cup holders. Price tag = $137,000.

  • Ferrari 430 Scuderia: Unleaded gasoline as well, seating for two, and has an increased range over the other cars so far at 401 miles. Additional equipment includes auto-dimming power heated side mirrors, racing seats, sport tuned suspension, and a speed sensing steering system. Price tag = $283,000.

  • Maserati Quattroporte: Unleaded gas, seating for five (the first win over the Skycar so far), and the maximum range is 408 miles. Features include a multimedia system with a 7 display screen and 30GB hard drive, automatic headlights (with wipers), electronic assisted door opening, and a sport mode transmission. Price tag = $136,000.

Those are four extreme examples of super-nice, luxury cars. How would the M400 Skycar compare against more common and affordable automobiles? To find out, we will have a similar comparison with an Acura and a Honda.

  • Acura RL: This also uses unleaded gas, has seating for four (a tie!), and has a maximum of 465 miles. Some of the available options are Bluetooth sync feature, turn signals integrated into the mirrors, heat rejecting safety glass, and satellite navigation with real-time weather and traffic reports. Price tag = $56,000.

  • Honda Accord EX-L: Unleaded gasoline, seating for five total, with a maximum range of 555 miles. Equipped with an immobilizer theft deterrent, electronic brake distribution, and Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA). Price tag = $36,000.

To be sure, any of the automobiles mentioned here would be nice to own and drive. Some of them would even increase social status. But what can any of them do for you that an M400 Skycar can't? You can get a speeding ticket in all them, and still have to worry about parallel parking and driving in bad weather. If you had an M400, you could fly around the storm faster than you could drive through it. Automobile manufacturers boast of their engineering prowess by designing aerodynamics for a land vehicle. Aircraft makers have had to contend with real aerodynamics since the beginning of flight. Below are some links to those vehicle I mentioned earlier and to the M400. Compare them yourself and you will see what I mean.

  • Moller International main website.

  • Article about the Skycar from the previous vice director of the US Army's Combat Service Support Battle Laboratory.

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