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Is it better for the planet to sometimes travel in a flying car?

Posted at 8:04 PM, Apr 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-11 11:05:58-04

YPSILANTI, Mich. (WXYZ) — Flying cars are no longer just a fantasy. As more and more companies create them the University of Michigan this week released a new study on the sustainability of flying cars.

Seven Action News reached out to the founder of the Detroit Flying Car Company who almost lost his life when his prototype crashed in December.

Sanjay Dhall is still recovering from the crash at Willow Run Airport. We scheduled our interview around doctors and physical therapy appointments, but he is well enough to tell his story.

“One wrong calculation can mean the difference between life and death,” said Dhall of the lesson all inventors working on flying cars need to keep in mind as they work.

He says he was supposed to try out his controls while on the ground back in December when the crash happened. He says he accidentally found himself taking off 150 feet in the air.

“It was a miraculous escape. I did break a lot of bones from head to toe,” he said. “… But amazingly the machine took the majority of the impact and I survived.”

The machine was destroyed.

He says he now is more committed than ever to getting the technology right.

“I still want to get back and build another prototype, a demonstrator vehicle that will succeed,” said Dhall.

A study released this week by the University of Michigan motivates him. It found that for trips of 100 kilometers (or 62 miles) and longer a fully loaded flying car carrying a pilot and three passengers had 52% lower greenhouse gas emissions and time savings than ground based gasoline powered cars with an average vehicle occupancy of 1.54.

The study's author, Akshat Kasliwal, said in flying cars, "Consumers could be incentivized to share trips, given the significant time savings from flying versus driving."

The study found flying cars traveled 100 kilometers much faster, resulting in a time savings of about 80 percent compared to cars driving on the road.

When compared to electric cars, fully loaded flying cars still had 6% lower greenhouse gas emissions on trips longer than 62 miles.

“When flight happens, constraints are gone. And when constraints go away things have a way of going cleaner ways,” said Dhall.

The study did find that on short trips, it is more efficient to stay on the ground.

Dhall points out that his prototype features wings that retract into the vehicle, allowing travel by road or sky. In theory he says it could be an overall greener way of traveling.

He says he named his company in honor of the Detroit inventors who changed the way people around the world travel.

He believes flying cars will do the same in the future.