Now that we have a country with no rental cars, who’s laughing at the flying car concept?

When the founders of Terrafugia, 15 years ago, showed me their pitch arguing that a flying car was more efficient for some class of trips than a Honda Accord or a traditional piston-powered airplane, I responded that (a) nobody could argue that a small airplane was a better practical transportation tool than a Honda Accord, except for trips to islands such as Martha’s Vineyard, and (b) given the few hundred aircraft they hoped to sell, they didn’t need to convince buyers to purchase based on rational requirements.

Why wasn’t it a big advantage to have a plane that could also be a car and thereby support the last 15 miles of a trip? Nearly every airport offered rental cars, I pointed out. For shorter duration needs, the more popular airports also had crew cars that Cessna and Cirrus pilots could borrow for free. UberX launched in 2012, further reducing the friction of the interface between air and ground.

Like most of my business advice, this turned out to be wrong. It just took 15 years for the wrongness to be obvious! Here in 2021 it is impossible to get rental cars and it is impossible for Uber to compete for labor with the U.S. government (i.e., people who would otherwise be driving Ubers are relaxing at home cashing checks from Uncle Joe; see We are very short staffed and no one wants a job right now).

(Recent conversation at our local airport with the guy working a rental car desk: “We can’t get any cars and we can’t hire anyone. Nobody wants to work. We’re sold out every weekend.”)


4 thoughts on “Now that we have a country with no rental cars, who’s laughing at the flying car concept?

  1. Wendover Productions has a great explanation for the shortages:

    There are not enough ports. Perhaps the money that is being printed should be spent on a third port on the west coast instead of gender/race/immigration bureaucrats and flags.

    Construction work of the port should have a quota, at least 50% of the workers should identify as women.

  2. To be honest, even if rental cars were not available, I’d be scared to drive a Terrafugia on public roads, more so than flying it. If you think drivers are distracted now, there’s nothing like something that looks like a plane crash in progress to get their attention away from what they’re supposed to be doing.

    • Here’s Professor John Kelly’s distracted driver accident that almost wiped him out in 2019 (he teaches EV/Hybrid technology for Weber State University in Utah). Clear day, big intersection, lots of lanes in each direction, functional signals, no rush, very light traffic, perfect visibility – BLAMMO.

      The Terrafugia would, I imagine, attract an enormous “gawker” contingent wherever one appeared in public, including people getting into accidents as they try to turn around and catch up with it or look backward to see what it is. Drive it on I-84 in Connecticut and you’d be a public menace. CT drivers on I-84 have enough trouble merging lanes without coming to a complete stop.

  3. No bumper to bumper tolerance for Terrafugia car. Leaving it curb-parked for a day on any city street is not an option. Hardly jetsons flying car alpha.

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