- Kitty Hawk
Flying cars are poised to replace self-driving cars as the hot thing in the next three years, according to Sebastian Thrun, the former Google employee who founded the personal-flight company Kitty Hawk.
During his appearance at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Thrun, who is sometimes referred to as the godfather of the self-driving car, explained why he thought personal air travel would become an everyday occurrence in the near future.
“The air is so free of stuff and unused compared to the ground,” said Thrun, whose bold vision for the future was matched by his decidedly curious sartorial style.
Thrun envisions a world where he can fly the 34-mile journey from Palo Alto, California, to San Francisco in 10 minutes and return home at the end of the day to a bag of drone-delivered groceries at his door.
‘It’s completely crazy’
- Video screenshot
Technologies like artificial intelligence and deep learning, as well as innovations in delivery drones, have enormous potential, Thrun said, though he acknowledged that most people viewed flying cars as the stuff of science fiction.
“The latest thing is going to be flying cars – it’s completely crazy, and no one person in the world believes in it,” Thrun said. No one, perhaps, except Thrun and Larry Page, who is a backer of Kitty Hawk.
A prototype of the flying vehicle Thrun was referring to was first showcased in a video on the company’s website in April. The vehicle in the video looks more like a water toy than a flying car, but Cimeron Morrissey, who got the chance to ride the device, wrote in a review that the final version would look much different from the prototype.
Kitty Hawk will have its first product ready by February, more flying motorcycle than car, Thrun said.
“Self-driving cars is very hot right now, but a few years ago nobody cared about them,” he said. “Three years from now flying cars will be very hot, and they might just disrupt the self-driving car.”
He also believes that there isn’t a technical reason flying cars can’t be done soon and that the real roadblocks are legal and regulatory. Government transportation agencies have only recently begun to grapple with self-driving-car regulations, and regulating airspace would most likely present even more of a challenge.
Though his company’s vision is to make traveling in the skies the norm, Thrun is still a firm believer in developing self-driving cars – he just thinks we need to keep innovating past them.
Thrun led Google’s self-driving-car efforts several years ago, but he broke off from the company to pursue his passion for education with his startup Udacity and to focus on other projects like Kitty Hawk.