You press the gas pedal. You roll forward a few inches. You brake. You stop. You wait. Time passes. You gaze through the windshield. Gridlock, with no end in sight… More time passes. You check the clock. A gap opens. You roll forward a few inches. Brake, stop and wait…
Being stuck in traffic is something every driver experiences. The boredom. The tedium. The annoyance. Especially when you need to get somewhere. Time spent in traffic is dead time. Time you’ll never get back. Time that could be spent doing something fun. Or something productive. Or something relaxing. Time that would probably be better spent doing just about anything else.
So how much time exactly do we spend in traffic? Well, a 2015 study from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute calculated that American commuters endure an average of 42 hours – the rough equivalent of one working week – stuck in gridlock every year. And in big conurbations such as Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco, that number nearly doubles.
But U.S. traffic jams are a minor inconvenience compared to the gridlocked horror of the Philippines. According to a 2017 study by Boston Consulting Group, motorists in Metropolitan Manila spend an average of 66 minutes per day stuck in traffic – equivalent to around 7 working weeks per year. And that doesn’t even include the 24 additional minutes then spent finding somewhere to park.
The Philippines has a thriving economy and cheap credit, a combination that is driving up car sales. However, the road infrastructure there cannot cope with the influx of new vehicles. And the country’s rail network, too, is failing to meet demand. None of these problems are unsolvable. But none of them are likely to be solved any time soon, either, which is leading some to consider radical solutions.
One such person is Kyxz Mendiola, the brains behind Koncepto Millenya, a collection of entrepreneurs and inventors experimenting with electric vehicle technology. Mendiola is a resident of Quezon City, the most populous place in the Philippines and one of the 16 cities that together make up heavily congested Metro Manila.
Frustrated with the traffic problems in his home city, Mendiola spent more than half a decade developing an electric vehicle that will enable drivers to avoid gridlock entirely. Indeed, his futuristic invention might just transform urban transportation. But even if it doesn’t, it has enormous recreational potential. First and foremost, his vehicle is fun!
“It’s a flying car type of vehicle that uses drone technology or multi-copter technology to fly,” Mendiola told the Daily Mail. “It’s like a drone car.” As well as resembling a giant drone, the incredible flying machine looks like something out of a Batman movie.
The propeller-driven vehicle weighs 154 pounds and consists of an aluminum and carbon-fiber frame. It contains an electronic flight controller and is powered by batteries. According to Mendiola, its “battery redundancy system” allows the vehicle to continue flying if a battery fails or goes flat.
Earlier prototypes of the vehicle included a hoverboard piloted using a remote control, but this was ditched in favor of the nifty single-seat drone design. “I wanted it to be a sports car, a flying Lamborghini, maybe,” said Mendiola. “The design was a trial-and-error process. Some materials burned up on use. Other materials didn’t quite work.”
After a few setbacks, Mendiola finally conducted his first test flight in September 2018. “We’ve been having bad weather, so it took as a while after our deadline before we can finally show it to our followers,” he explained. “But after two months of tuning, here it is. I hope everyone will give this vehicle a positive reaction. This was only a dream for us five years ago.”
And after posting a video of the test flight on his YouTube page, Mendiola was heaped with praise from commenters. “Just one look at this tells me we are getting VERY CLOSE to realizing ownership of a flying car,” wrote David Howe.
However, the vehicle wasn’t without its critics, either. “Don’t fly higher then you want to fall. Just a thought,” wrote Don Berry. “Please stop with the ‘Flying car’ ‘Flying boat’. If it flies it’s an aircraft,” Drew Earthling commented. “In this case it’s a death trap.” “This thing is laughable at best,” added Big D. “As a pilot, I can tell you it only takes 1 second before you are upside down.”
Indeed, there are a few technical issues with the vehicle. For one thing, the batteries only allow for a maximum of 15 minutes of flight. And it takes more than two hours to re-charge them. In addition, the craft has no wheels, so technically it isn’t a flying car at all. And, of course, you can’t drive it on roads.
More generally, the concept of flying cars has been rubbished by entrepreneur Elon Musk during a YouTube interview with comic Joe Rogan. “If you want a flying car, just put wheels on a helicopter,” he said. Explaining that propeller-driven toy drones tend to be loud and blustery, he added, “Your neighbors are not going to be happy if you land a flying car in your backyard or on your rooftop.”
Nonetheless, the dream of flying cars is an old one – and one that is not about to die. In fact, one of the world’s earliest inspirations for the flying car was a single-seater airplane developed by industrialist Henry Ford in 1926. The program was eventually scrapped, but that didn’t stop Ford from dreaming on. “Mark my word: a combination airplane and motorcar is coming,” he reportedly said in 1940, according to Popular Science. “You may smile, but it will come.”
Today, a company that might be about to realize that dream is Terrafugia. In 2006 the firm started developing a road-ready airplane with folding wings called the Terrafugia Transition. Three years later, it unveiled a prototype. And in September 2018 the company announced it would begin accepting orders for the vehicle shortly.
In the same month, the Japanese government announced a new “flying car” venture. It could involve drone couriers and flying taxi services being booked straight from your smart phone. A blueprint for the project is currently under development by several academics, technology and transport corporations, including NEC and Nippon Airways.
Meanwhile, Mendiola hopes to develop and market a two-seater model of his vehicle. “Perfect for personal land survey… or for simply enjoying some recreational flying,” he wrote on his YouTube channel. “With almost zero maintenance and very easy to fly, it’s the perfect personal flying machine.”
“I believe a single individual is capable of many things if you really put your mind, heart and soul to accomplish your goals,” Mendiola continued. “This is for all the Big Dreamers out there, never stop pursuing and make all your dreams come true.” Indeed, whatever the future holds – and whether or not he beats the traffic – Mendiola has already achieved something special.