This is the Terrafugia TF-X, and it is surely the answer to our airborne automotive prayers. Built by the Boston-based outfit behind the still-not-yet-in-production Transition, it’s a bold vision of a transportation future unbounded by roads, runways or pleasing aesthetics.
As you’ll see from the video above, the TF-X – which will seat four open-minded humans – is capable of vertical take-off, thus negating the need for a runway. Wings furled, it’ll squeeze into a standard single garage, thus negating the need for a hanger in which to store your personal plane.
It’s powered by a plug-in hybrid arrangement, a pair of electric motors combining with a 300bhp petrol engine to produce a megawatt of output. Aerial thrust is provided by a ducted fan at the rear, and a propeller at the end of each retractable wing.
We don’t know how fast the TF-X will go on road, but once airborne it’ll soar at speeds of 200mph for a distance of up to 500 miles. Which means you could hop from London to Geneva in under three hours, and in a single bound. It’s the future we were always promised. We’re in.
However. There are, admittedly, a few tiny issues with the TF-X. First, as you may have deduced from the rather renderised images, it doesn’t actually exist yet.
Terrafugia admits bringing the flying car to production is a process ‘expected to last 8-12 years’, which means, realistically, it’ll be the middle of next decade before we see one on the driveway of TG Towers.
It’s as yet unclear exactly how much the TF-X might cost, but Terrafugia has hinted that the final price ‘could be on-par with the very high-end luxury cars of today’. But hey, does a Bugatti Veyron afford the opportunity to evade traffic jams by leaping over them?
And then there’s the wider issue of safety and legislation, both of which have played a significant role in scuppering previous flying car attempts.
Terrafugia reckons the TF-X ‘should be statistically safer than driving a modern automobile’, and says learning to fly it will take just five hours of training.
That’s thanks, at least in part, to a high degree of autonomy: once airborne, the TF-X will effectively fly itself – though the driver can override the controls – and land automatically, without human input.
In the event of failure, the TF-X can deploy its full-vehicle parachute, allowing, hopefully, the flying car to float safely down to terra firma.
Foolproof in theory, but convincing both the car-buying public and the lawmakers that filling the sky with personal planes is a safe, sensible thing to do will remain a challenge for a while to come. Consider the muddle legislators are getting into around self-driving cars right now, then add the vertical dimension into the mix, and it’s clear the world’s lawmakers will need every one of those eight-to-twelve years of development to figure out the car-o-plane small print.
A version of this story appeared on TopGear.com.