Dietrich and his team are working to bring consumers closer to the prospect of a practical flying car, envisioning a vehicle that does not require its operator to be a trained pilot. Thus, Boston -based Terrafugia announced last May it had started working on the concept of TF-X, a four-seat, plug-in hybrid electric car that can do vertical take-offs and landings.
Although not driverless, Dietrich says the TF-X could increase the level of so-called “human directed local autonomy,” a term he describes as a “big fancy phrase” that essentially means that the vehicle’s operator won’t need to have the knowledge or skills of a pilot.
“They don’t need to know those things because the computer is plugged in to a data network that automatically helps them plan the flight path, avoid other air traffic and air space restrictions, things of that nature,” says Dietrich. He explains that operators would still have to make high-level, critical decisions, like determining whether it’s safe to take off and land or approve the landing zone in advance.