Simulator Paves Way for Smart Flying Cars
CREDIT: Michael Moshier
Flying cars could doom humanity to the endless nightmare of "air rage" collisions and drunken crash landings. Luckily, such flying cars will probably have autopilot modes that allow them to fly themselves wherever humans wish them to go.
One effort to make software "brains" necessary for automated flying cars comes from the European project called MyCopter, according to New Scientist. The project has already begun using a simulator to test how such personal flying vehicles might behave under the control of both unskilled and professional pilots.
The future of flying cars seems to keep slipping over the horizon, but just about everyone agrees that the ideal form of such vehicles will have vertical takeoff and landing capabilities like helicopters. Early versions of "flying cars" dating back to the 1950s were essentially "roadable aircraft" that took off and landed like typical airplanes.
Even modern takes on flying cars look eerily similar to the roadable aircraft formula — Terrafugia's "Transition" vehicle is a personal aircraft that can also fold its wings to drive on the road. But Terrafugia did recognize that a future filled with flying cars would practically require some form of autopilot to sidestep human errors.
The MyCopter project enlisted the help of the University of Liverpool in the UK to create a flying car simulator based on an existing helicopter simulator. The simulation software has allowed researchers to get a baseline sense of human pilot behavior so that they know when and how an autopilot system could help out.
Any autopilot "brains" for flying cars may end up resembling the software that would handle self-driving cars on the ground — cars capable of talking with one another and traffic (or flight) control to coordinate routes and avoid accidents.
Source: New Scientist