Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Heads up!

The popular press has been teasing us since the 1940's about cars that will convert to airplanes in a few minutes and allow us to fly over the traffic to work. Somehow the Gee Whiz journalists never seemed to factor into the equation the basic inability of the average person to master the piloting of an automobile even after decades of experience or to visualize the air above our head filled with drunks, text messaging teens, cell phone yakking soccer moms and winged versions of all the road vermin that infest our highways.

They're still at it, in fact. The NASA-funded first annual PAV challenge just wrapped up in Santa Rosa this weekend. PAV or Personal Air Vehicle is a pointless and euphemistic coinage that sounds like it was minted by the same industry bullslingers who gave us SUV, but that's only a small clue as to the silliness of this entire enterprise. According to ZDNet,
"with the right technology, small auto-piloted planes could one day alleviate traffic gridlock by shuttling people around on midrange trips (jaunts of between 100 and 500 miles) with much more speed, economy and efficiency than a car. "Planes for plain folk" is one motto."
God help us all is my version. The idea of producing an intelligent airplane in which Gerry and Mrs. Atricks or their backwards-hatted hardware-faced grandchildren can safely travel a few hundred miles at 150 MPH may appeal to technophiles, but those of us who daily witness the full spectrum of human idiocy on our roads might just prefer to stay in a bunker if this idea takes off. No technology can overcome the massed powers of stupidity, ineptitude, inability to focus or to judge speed and distance.

The dreamers envision an airplane - excuse me, a PAV - so advanced that it can, along with thousands of other PAV's, be trusted to behave like a flock of migratory birds with scant human intervention; miraculously arriving at some pre-programmed destination in all kinds of weather. I can't help but envision a hailstorm of hot metal and burning plastic raining down on our heads along with the cigarette butts and beer cans and McDonald's packaging one finds on every roadside.

Besides, the American public will not buy two seat, sporty vehicles and the manufacturers will quite soon be turning out versions of military heavy transport planes (SUAV's?) so that every wimp, twit and one-eyed psycho can feel powerful flying to work with all 4 engines roaring and 14 Kilowatt "sound system" booming. Spinning hubcaps sold separately.

cross posted at The Reaction

8 comments:

Reign of Reason said...

I strongly disagree...

The spinning hubcaps will be standard equipment...

As a pilot the idea does scare me... Although I think the research worth-while. It'll be a long time before a significant portion of the populace can master anything like this, but its a good research goal.

Intellectual Insurgent said...

Fuck that. In an era where people are exceeding the bounds of human stupidity, I don't want anything that makes people more lethal. It's bad enough any moron is allowed to drive.

Imagine if there are air highways over residential neighborhoods. And you get hit by the uninsured, overweight cell-phone yacking, no resposibility-taking average American?

NeoAuteur said...

With all the technical glitches that we have to endure everyday, this is a horrible idea.

Capt. Fogg said...

The have maglev trains in China that are twice as fast as these flying bombs. I'd rather see the money put into something like that.

nolocontendere said...

I want my own flying saucer instead!

Capt. Fogg said...

Want laser cannons with that?

Reign of Reason said...

LOL...

Well there are 500,000+ certificated private pilots in the sky's today. They are made up of the same cross section of morons you decry. However, because of somewhat stringent certification and currency requirements, the accident rate of small aircraft is very very low.

The piloting requirements for such a vehicle would likely be just as stringent. We're not talking about selling these to people "off the street" and letting them fly away.

If it's regulated like pilot licenses, there's no reason it can't be as safe.

Capt. Fogg said...

I understand what you're saying, but the essence of this idea seems to be that you don't have to know what you're doing - the machine will take care of you and will fly itself.

Otherwise what they are talking about would be nothing new and nothing different than what's already in place.

These things are simply private aircraft with GPS navigation transponders and we already have those. What we don't have is pilots without training and unless I'm very wrong, that's what this system is about. As you say, trained pilots are already flying.