Cars that double up as biplanes have been promised to us for over 75 years. “A combination airplane and motor car is coming,” said Henry Ford in 1940. “You may smile. But it will come.” Seventy-one years after Ford’s death, and we still have no flying cars, but in the “always jam tomorrow” mould, you can at least ready yourself for the non-existent tech with Udacity’s latest nanodegree – this time in flying car technology.
Like Ford, Udacity’s co-founder Sebastian Thrun (who set up Google’s self-driving car division back in the day) believes that flying cars are just around the corner, telling Reuters: “It feels like science fiction now, but with Google and Amazon moving in, there is going to be enormous activity around this in the next year or two.”
“Enormous activity” isn’t always correlated with a successful product, of course, but Thrun hopes that this movement will be kickstarted by the qualification, which comprises of two 12-week terms costing $1,200 (~£852) each – the first in “Aerial Robotics” and the second in “Intelligent Air Systems.” The hope is that having engineers with the right qualifications will change these vehicles from being purely theoretical to something that can take to the skies soon. “There is a huge shortage of engineers. There are plenty of smart people — the missing link is education,” he explained.
The online university does at least have a history in pushing courses in nascent technology: Udacity’s self-driving car course has been taken by 50,000 applicants in two years. Thrun’s hope is that the flying car nanodegree will get a return of at least 10,000 people.
One of the companies that might seek to hire nano-graduates is Kitty Hawk – a California startup that aims “to make the dream of personal flight a reality.” Thrun, it so happens, is the CEO and co-founder of said company. And it does have a prototype – albeit one that isn’t quite a flying car, more closely resembling a one-man drone than something you’d recognise from The Fifth Element.
Video of Introducing the Kitty Hawk Flyer See related Lilium just took a huge step towards bringing electric flying cars to Europe Uber hires NASA expert to research flying cars Flying cars aren’t viable, says Elon Musk
Still, dress for the job you want, they say – and getting a degree in something that doesn’t exist might indeed help you make it a reality.
Then again, it might not.
Still, if you can take an online course in preparing for life on Mars, then I guess it doesn’t hurt to prepare to be the flying car designer of the future if you happen to have £1,700 to burn.
Image: World Economic Forum used under Creative Commons