(CNN) – Towards the end of the 1985 sci-fi classic Back to the Future, model-crazy inventor Doc Brown proclaims “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads” as time-traveling DeLorean soars through the air. Although flying cars have not yet filled our skies, there are many more in development.
Last week, the Chinese company XPeng X2 successfully conducted the first public test flight of its two-seater flying car at the GITEX technology fair in Dubai, even sharing the design of the famous gull-wing door from DeLorean.
XPeng X2 is lifted vertically off the ground by eight fans, without the need for a landing strip, making it suitable for urban areas. The vehicle, which is designed to carry two passengers, is fully electric and its creators say it can soar into the air at a speed of two meters per second and reach speeds of up to 130 kilometers per hour.
Although the test flight lasted only 90 seconds, according to Liu Xinyin, chief aviation expert at XPeng Aeroht, the technology is about to be ready for public use, but regulations for flying cars are still a bit off.
XPeng plans to work with governments to create a regulatory physical infrastructure for flying cars in urban areas, and Liu believes that people will be able to use flying cars within limited regulated spaces in just five years. This coincides with the Chinese government’s ambitious plans to launch flying taxis by 2025.
As if flying wasn’t futuristic enough, the XPeng X2 is equipped with AI automation: it can be manually piloted or configured for autonomous driving. “Learn to avoid traffic, buildings, and people,” says Liu.
Elements of autonomous leadership pose further difficulties in terms of regulation, and also call into question public acceptance. Many people are still concerned about safety issues with autonomous vehicles on the ground, not to mention vehicles speeding in the sky. However, XPeng claims it is safer for its flying car to drive autonomously than for a human being.
There are dozens of flying cars in development around the world, and many of them are already flying, such as Canadian Opener’s “BlackFly”, SkyDrive Inc’s “SD-03”, and Klein Vision’s “AirCar” prototype, which last year successfully completed a 35-minute test flight Between two cities in Slovakia.
The benefits of flying cars like the XPeng X2 go beyond fulfilling pop culture dreams. Its proponents claim that flying cars could revolutionize urban transportation, making roads less congested and therefore safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and in the case of electric vehicles like the XPeng X2, also reducing carbon emissions.
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