Khairy Asks If National Automotive Policy's Inclusion Of Flying Vehicles Is For Real


Khairy Asks If National Automotive Policy's Inclusion Of Flying Vehicles Is For Real

It looks like news reports claiming that the new automotive policy will establish regulatory framework for flying cars is indeed true.

Rembau’s Member of Parliament Khairy Jamaluddin posted on his Twitter today two snapshots of the proposed new National Automotive Policy (NAP) document.

Under the section ‘Direction 1: Technology’ of the document dated March 2019, within the column ‘Standard & Specification,’ flying vehicle is mentioned. Other notable mentions include extending the energy efficient vehicles (EEV) standard to cover motorcycles and commercial vehicles, as well as establishing a test bed for autonomous and connected vehicles (AACV).

Khairy’s tweet carried a sarcastic tone, saying “Seriously, YB @imokman?,” referring to Deputy Minister of International Trade and Ministry Dr. Ong Kian Ming's Twitter handle. MITI is the body responsible for the NAP.

The idea of a locally produced flying car was first mooted by Entrepreneur Development Minister Mohd Redzuan Yusof earlier this year.

To be clear, the idea of flying cars is nothing new. The technology has been around for the last 90 years - older than most of you. There is no shortage of working examples or startup companies looking to commercialize them. is very aware of the feasibility and technological challenges of flying cars, but we are also very well aware that diesels sold in Malaysia are not clean enough for the latest Euro 6 compliant models, and we still haven’t figure out how to tax/incentivize electric vehicles, and providing the infrastructure to charge these cars using renewable energy.

In other words, you need to get a bachelor’s degree before you can qualify for a doctorate right?

Curtis Autoplane, 1917.

Also, flying cars are extremely horrible looking. Planes are designed to stay in the air at high speeds while a car's aerodynamics is meant to make the car stick closer the ground the faster it goes. Trying to work around these two opposite sides of physics is just stupid. 

This is why the smartest minds don't talk about flying cars but flying taxis or mini helicopters - vehicles with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capability, without the need to drive on public roads. Flying cars is just a loosely used (often erroneously) term. 

The minister could have easily avoided the public relations mess if he termed it as 'flying taxi' instead of flying car. 

Terrafugia flying car

Among the notable startups in this VTOL vehicle space is Volocopter, which Daimler, the world’s leading premium car manufacturer, has invested USD 30 million in. Uber too is working on a similar initiative under the Uber Elevate label while Boeing is running the GoFly contest, which offers USD 2 million in prize money to anyone who can build an ultra-compact, VTOL vehicle.

Volocopter is developed with Daimler's funding. It's a flying taxi, not a flying car. 

Also, what’s stopping commercialization of flying cars is not the technology but the practicality of the idea and associated costs.

You need a pilot’s license before you can fly and getting one is not as simple as going to a driving school and surely the government can’t consider relaxing that requirement. Air travel is also strictly regulated by aviation authority bodies.

Then there is the noise. Flying vehicles will certainly require VTOL ability. Have you heard how loud helicopters are? And you thought cars with Akrapovic exhausts were bad enough.

If the flying vehicle is electric, the battery’s energy density will have to be very high to allow it to accommodate for changing wind conditions and still have a decent travel range but at some point, the mathematics will show that the additional weight from the bigger batteries will quickly reach a point of diminishing return in payload capacity.

The above are problems that Volocopter, Uber Elevate, and GoFly are trying to solve. Lack of standardization of technology, or even the lack of know-how to make a flying vehicle are not any of the challenges.

Meanwhile, can we have trains that stop near our homes? So we can avoid the need to drive to work? So we can skip the traffic just like how people in developed cities that don’t have flying vehicles go to work?

Update: Dr. Ong answers Khairy