SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — It may look like something straight out of Star Wars, but flying motorcycles are almost here.
They could be ready to hit the sky in just a few short years.
“Three years from now flying cars will be very hot,” said Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun.
It seems like the stuff of science fiction, but Thrun — engineer, entrepreneur and one-time driving force behind Google’s autonomous car program — says flying vehicles are just a few years, not decades away.
“We should not be getting stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel or the Bay Bridge anymore,” said Thrun. “You should just be able to go on your flying motorcycle and go wherever you want to go. That is actually becoming reality now.”
Thrun made that cheadline-grabbing claim during his talk on Day 2 of the Tech Crunch conference in San Francisco.
“We actually believe we’ll have our first product ready in February of next year. And it’s more of like a flying motorcycle than a flying car,” Thrun said.
It looks kind of like an airborne jet ski. A very rough prototype was unveiled in April.
Thrun says the technology could someday revolutionize transportation as the innovations behind self-driving cars and drones merge.
“It’s an electric aircraft,” Thrun said. “And everything that’s hard about flying is done by the computer — all the wind computation stuff. And I get a joy stick interface that’s just like a video game. And it’s just as much fun as a video game, but it’s real.”
If two or three years seems likely an overly optimistic estimate about when flying vehicles might be on the market, Thrun says much like self-driving cars, technology will outpace regulations, leaving the rule makers struggling to catch up.