April marked the 53rd anniversary of the opening of the World’s Fair in Queens. Oh, the wonders that fair brought to not only New York, but the entire world. I visited the fair a few times as a kid with my family and was awed by the animatronic people and animals.
Today, many of us take the advancements we experienced in 1964 for granted, like seeing a robot Abraham Lincoln talking and moving, an amazing sight to behold. Today, it’s the only attraction at Disney World without anyone waiting on the line.
The World’s Fair brought us many visions of the future that ultimately became reality. Exhibits like “Carousel of Progress”, depicted the home of the future with tabletop computers, huge TV screens (in color, no less) and the ability to use a video phone to talk to a loved one.
Then there was the GM exhibit, “Futurama II,” that envisioned domestic space travel to colonies on the Moon. They also showed us a flying car.
Many of the exhibits promised advancements that were incomprehensible with the technology available in 1964. Computers were the size of tractor trailers and video phones were used by Dick Tracy in the comics. But flying cars? Why not? We already had cars and we already flew in airplanes. Sounded more plausible than a video phone.
Add some wings, slap on a propeller and voila, a flying car! We knew it was going to take a lot of time, energy and money to perfect the technology, but we were already working on rockets to the moon, so we were on our way. Even if it took 20 years, we were willing to wait. We didn’t expect little space ships like we saw in The Jetsons, but we should have had some sort of Oldsmobile floating above traffic by the 1980s, right?
In the mid-1980s, we got to see a time-traveling Delorean in Back to the Future that depicted flying cars in 2015. Surely technology would have had a few prototypes available in the 1990s or at least the turn of the century? But the 40th anniversary of the World’s Fair came and went without so much as a Chevy with inflatable balloons that could float over the LIE.
Meanwhile, traffic here on Long Island is a nightmare and there is no “rush hour” anymore. The Southern State is jammed just as much at 2 p.m. as it is at 5 p.m. or even 7 p.m.
In the last 50 years, we did get computers in the palm of our hands; television and movies on demand instantaneous information by “googling” the answer (there was an exhibit for that). But we never got our flying car, not even close. Google demonstrated a “flying car” this week that looks more like an oversized drone, but it only takes off and lands in water.
Fret not, lovers of Spacely Sprockets. A company in the UK developed a prototype called the “Aeromobil” (you can Google it) that is a true, flying/driving car. It converts from a plane with wings to a car with wheels. It even has a parachute to bring the vehicle down to safety, so you don’t have to eject. It’s an electric Hybrid on the road and in the air, delivers 300 hp to the propeller on the tail. It will take you 1,200 miles in the air on a single tank of fuel—just about from NY to Florida.
But here’s the rub. It may be more accurate to call it a “driving plane” than a “flying car.” It doesn’t just take off from the Northern State Parkway when you get stuck in traffic, and it doesn’t hover over your house and land safely on your driveway. You need a runway (or a long stretch of road) to take off and land, like Republic Airport in Farmingdale. In case you were wondering, it will set you back at least $1 million.
But maybe in my lifetime (the clock is ticking, you know), we will get the chance to repeat those famous words from Doc Brown, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”