Flying cars are poised to replace self-driving cars as the hot thing in the next three years according to ex-Googler and Kitty Hawk founder Sebastian Thrun.
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 believes personal air travel will 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 to San Francisco in ten minutes, and get home at the end of the day to a bag of drone delivered groceries at his door.
“It’s completely crazy”
Technologies like AI and deep learning, as well as innovations in delivery drones, have enormous potential, Thrun said, though he acknowledged that most people today view 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 except for himself and Larry Page, who is a backer of Kitty Hawk.
A prototype of the type of the flying vehicle Thrun was referring to was first showcased in a video on the company’s website in April of this year. 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 will look much different than the prototype.
Kitty Hawk will have its first product ready by February of next year, more flying motorcycle than car, according to Thrun.
“Self driving cars is very hot right now but a few years ago nobody cared about them. Three years from now flying cars will be very hot and they might just disrupt the self driving car,” he said.
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 it’s likely that regulating air space will present even more of a challenge.
Although his company’s vision is to make travelling 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 broke off from the company to pursue his passion for education with his startup Udacity and to focus on other projects like Kitty Hawk.