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Flying car cleared for highway use

July 6, 2011 |  8:42 pm

 

The first flying car just got one step closer to gliding, and then driving, onto the market.

On June 30th the Transition Roadable Aircraft, as the car-plane hybrid is called, was granted a series of special exemptions by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that make the car operable both in the air and on the road.

So what kinds of special exemptions does a "roadable aircraft" (best name ever) need? Well, special windows, for one. Regular laminated automotive safety glass is too heavy for the Transition while in the air, and there's always a danger that a bird could fracture it. (Dang birds!) Instead of glass windows, the Transition will use a polycarbonate material less prone to shattering. NHTSA also signed off on the use of special tires.

It all sounds very excitingly sci-fi, and in a way it is — the car really does fly. But it is really more of an airplane that can drive on the road, rather than a car that can fly in the air. We're not in Jetson-land yet.  

The Transition had its first test flight/drive in 2009 (see the video above), and Terrafugia Inc., the company that is developing the plane-car, says it is scheduled to be available by the end of 2012.

When the vehicle does go on sale, consumers can expect to pay $250,000 to live the future.

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--Deborah Netburn

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