Rachel and I just flew to Las Vegas for an exclusive first glance at the Silicon Valley Flyer's one-seater.
Kitty Hawk, funded by Google's co-founder, Larry Page and headed the Thrun's pioneering car, attracted national attention when the Flyer prototype touched last year.
But now Rachel fits to become the first reporter to get on a new, more stylish model – it does not require a pilot license. Obviously, he was nervous and I was relieved not to sit on the pilot's seat. The 250-pound vehicle looks like an intersection between an aircraft and a floatplane. Ten helicopters were spinning around her as I watched 50 feet away.
Over the years, I have led to half a dozen self-driving cars without fear. But something about navigating a flying car, along with my recent home, made me more worrying.
Earlier that day, as temperatures climbed more than 100 degrees, Kitty Hawk's staff put Rachel in a 90-minute class for Flyer navigation. (I have shaded). Thrun hopes that the training will take about five minutes.
Thrun sees personalized air transport as a solution to congestion. But before we all manage to live in a Jetsons utopia, public and even the necropsy of innovation, including Rachel and I, we should be convinced that this is a technology we want.
With a slight touch on a sliding booster, Rachel used her hand to take off in Flyer from a quay on Lake Las Vegas, 25 miles from the city center. Using a simple Atari-esque control in her other hand, she began to handle the Flyer around, traveling between three and 10 feet above the lake. (Its speed was limited to 6 miles per hour – experienced pilots can fly up to 20 miles per hour).
As Rachel fell over the lake, Kitty Hawk's mission control team watched her flight from a small nearby building and handed her guidance through the speakers to her helmet. Five minutes later, Rachel returned to the quay, landing Flyer as a professional.
She threw her hands in celebration. We all smiled.
"The controller is so intuitive, but it's not the most comfortable thing I've ever seated," he told me later from the driver's seat. "You surely feel the vibrations."
The booklet makes it easy to put it in place even when the operator does not touch the controls. There are no intricate controls or arrays of instruments or monitors to monitor. The Kitty Hawk team looked at everything from a steering wheel to video game controllers and boat throttles to find a plan that people would feel more comfortable using.
"The hardest part of the day was definitely the ball pit," Rachel reminded.
During her training, she was on the Flyer and turned upside down in a pit pit. The drill is a way to practice dismantling the seat belt and escape from the Flyer if it drops upside down.
The next morning, Rachel and I were back to the dock – and he was ready to fly again. The nerves disappeared. He took the Flyer around the lake, trying more complicated moves, including figure 8, the day before. Still a ceiling of 6 mph, he wanted to fly faster.
The plan is to take its Flyer into the hands of individual customers soon – it already gets pre-orders (but prices have not been revealed). But first sales will go to collaborators wishing to operate fleets such as leisure parks. Kitty Hawk can ensure that pilots are trained in this way and flights can be tracked by professionals.
"After the bikes we met Sebastian and said:" Put rotors on it. "We want to design something that is really useful, and that will improve the way people move around."
Reicher describes Flyer that he is now on a leash. Thrun agrees, noting that he would like to fly higher. He thinks he could reach 100 mph. But first the team wants to do more pilot flights and build a parachute on the vehicle. At this time, the Flyer is only tested above the water.
Reichert said it was important to keep the Flyer lightweight so he could fly without a pilot's license because of an FAA regulation that requires these types of aircraft to weigh under 254 pounds. (Flyer cuts only four pounds).
The regulation also restricts Flyer and similar vehicles, called ultraviolet, to fly night or over people.
Although we are probably very good years away from moving to work on flying cars, perhaps the kind of innovation that happens in Vegas will not only stay in Las Vegas.