'Flying Car' Concept Gets a Design Tweak

The Transition is technically known as a roadable aircraft, or a plane that can fold up its wings to achieve street-safe (and legal) dimensions.

The vehicle has been given a mild design makeover, and is now imbued with a more car-like front courtesy of traditional headlights and a license plate holder.

Terrafugia envisions the eventual production version as having covered front wheels set off from the body of the car by tubes, which is more in line with the light sport aircraft that the airplane-half of the Transition represents.

On the engineering side of things, the next generation of the vehicle has an improved wing that folds up smoothly per a command from the cockpit, rather like a convertible.

Other newly updated features to the car-plane hybrid include rear-wheel drive with a continuously variable transmission, an independent suspension and a touch screen interface in the cockpit, or driver's seat, depending on one's location in the air or on the ground.

The prototype Transition flew its maiden voyage in March 2009 and passed with flying colors. Terrafugia's flying car cleared a key regulatory hurdle last month when the Federal Aviation Administration granted a 110 pound (50 kilogram) weight exception for the aircraft's class.

That extra weight was requested for accommodating modern safety features such as crumple zones in the nose of the vehicle. A rigid cage to protect vehicle occupants has also just been announced for the evolving Terrafugia concept.

Performance-wise, the Transition is supposed to get 35 miles per gallon (14.9 kilometers per liter) of gasoline on the road and have a flying range of 490 miles (787 kilometers) per full tank. With a sustained cruising speed of about 105 miles (172 kilometers) per hour, that equals over four hours up in the sky.

The first deliveries to customers are slated for late 2011, and Terrafugia is now accepting refundable $10,000 deposits to reserve a flying car.

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Adam Hadhazy
Adam Hadhazy is a contributing writer for Live Science and Space.com. He often writes about physics, psychology, animal behavior and story topics in general that explore the blurring line between today's science fiction and tomorrow's science fact. Adam has a Master of Arts degree from the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston College. When not squeezing in reruns of Star Trek, Adam likes hurling a Frisbee or dining on spicy food. You can check out more of his work at www.adamhadhazy.com.