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The first commercial flying car hits the market

Flying cars have flitted across the edges of our futuristic dreams for almost as long as cars have existed. We see them in famous sci-fi films like “Blade Runner” and “Back to the Future Part II.” But the promise of flying cars has yet to be realized. You still can’t park one in your driveway, but you can go ahead and place a pre-order for a Liberty flying car from Dutch company PAL-V.

PAL-V playfully calls its cars’ mix of flying and driving features “FlyDriving.” Visually, the Liberty looks much more like a helicopter than an airplane. Technically, it functions as a gyroplane. Unlike a helicopter, a gyroplane does not take off and land vertically. A small rotor attached at the rear of the Liberty provides the thrust and it needs a bit of runway space for takeoff. Helicopters can be deafening, but PAL-V said its vehicle won’t be that loud, likening its noise level to that of a small fixed-wing airplane.

The gyroplane design offers some safety advantages. PAL-V noted, “in case of engine failure the gyroplane can be landed normally in a very small area equivalent to a tennis court.” The company’s marketing materials promote the Liberty’s stability in turbulent air, easy landings even in conditions with strong crosswinds, and lower cost of ownership compared to a helicopter.

The Liberty features a folding rotor system that closes up and lays down on the top of the car when it’s in regular road driving mode. You won’t confuse it with a normal car. It stands out from the crowd with its sporty Italian-inspired design. The vehicle rolls on three wheels and looks like it would be at home in a sci-fi TV series or zipping along in a James Bond movie.

PAL-V made a big move this year by opening up preorders for its innovative creation. Not surprisingly, the latest tech costs quite a bit more than a regular car. PAL-V offers two preorder options. The Liberty Pioneer edition goes for $599,000. That price tag includes the vehicle, introductory training sessions at a location convenient to your home, and a variety of extra options, including power heating. The Pioneer models, which are limited to a production run of 90 vehicles, will also get priority when it comes to delivery.

If the Pioneer price tag is too overwhelming, but you happen to have a spare $399,000 kicking around, then check out the Liberty Sport option. It doesn’t have all the extra features of the Pioneer and you will also need to wait longer for delivery. The prices for both versions are estimates and may change once the Liberty is actually built. PAL-V is currently accepting non-refundable, option-to-buy deposits on the Pioneer ($25,000) and the Sport ($10,000).

The Liberty looks like it will offer decent enough performance in both modes. It tops out at around 100 mph when in car form and can reach about 112 mph as a top speed while flying. It also has a maximum operating altitude of around 11,500 feet. It holds two people and can only haul a limited amount of weight, so don’t expect it to replace your pickup truck.

“FlyDriving” the Liberty will require more than just your average driver’s license. You will also need to get a pilot’s license, so you might want to sign up for lessons if you plan to preorder a flying car and don’t already know how to fly.

While it’s fun to imagine a world where you pull out of your driveway in your Liberty, roll past your neighbor’s houses, and take off into the air, the reality of owning a flying car will look a bit different from its fictional image. You won’t be able to just take off from anywhere. Liberty owners will need access to a concrete or grass airstrip to get off the ground. The good news is once you land, you can just fold up your car’s rotors and drive to your destination. PAL-V said it takes between five and 10 minutes to convert from flying to driving mode or vice versa.

PAL-V is scheduled to start building its first pre-production models later in 2017 with the aim of delivering its first flying cars (the Pioneer models) to preorder customers in late 2018. The company has been testing proof-of-concept vehicles since 2008.

Will the PAL-V Liberty truly usher in a new age of flying cars across the globe? Will you see one parked in your neighbor’s driveway, or even in your own garage? It’s possible, but we should also remember the tale of Terrafugia, another flying car company that made a big media splash years ago but has yet to open up sales to the public. Terrafugia is still developing its vehicle, but it’s a good reminder that big technology developments sometimes require a lot of time and patience.

Watch the PAL-V in action:

For more information on the PAL-V, click here to visit the company’s website.

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