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Geely has bought flying car hopeful Terrafugia

The Chinese giant has added another arrow to its quiver. And this one actually flies

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Remember Terrafugia? Well, it’s had quite the shot in the arm: the entire operation has been bought, lock, stock and carbon-fibre turboprop, by the ever-expanding Geely.

So, what does that mean, exactly? Well, two things: one, Terrafugia’s taking on more staff and pressing ahead with its goal of personal flying transport, and two, that Geely sees genuine viability in Terrafugia’s plan to make flying cars – flying cars – a reality. And Geely’s actually pretty canny when it comes to investments – just look what they’ve already done with Volvo, and think about how much you want a V90. And possibly a cashmere rollneck jumper to go with it. 

So, who and what does Geely actually have a stake in these days? Well, Terrafugia, obviously, but also the London Electric Vehicle Company (nee: London Taxi Company, maker of London cabs), Volvo (and, by extension, Polestar), Lotus, Proton and Lynk & Co. who you’ve likely heard of, as well as countless companies you haven’t. Feel free to correct us on this, if you’ve intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Shanghai Maple or Proper Glory Holding Inc. Canary Wharf-ists would call it ‘a diverse portfolio’. 

If this gives you the impression that Geely’s scrambling for the next big thing in personal transport in an ebullient and boisterous manner, you’re not alone. And, it seems, neither is Geely – think about Tesla, Faraday, Google, Uber… and any number of others. In search of the silver bullet of personal mobility, they’re pushing out in a million different directions at once and the end results for us are nebulous at best. 

Like us, you might be wondering: where does the future lie? Autonomy? Electricity? Personal aviation? Hyperloops? Battery-powered bicycles? A system of trebuchets and catch nets? And are any of these technologies mutually exclusive – can we have autonomous electric VTOL aeroplanes parked on the roofs of our apartment blocks? Or would that interfere with the trebuchets?

Maybe all these years of pretending we’re grown-ups has us finally thinking like them, but, as we see it, humanity tends to err towards a ‘this, not that’ approach. For instance, when Apple released the screen-heavy and button-light iPhone, everyone ditched their Motorola Razr before it had a chance to say “Goodbye, Moto”. Also, shout out if you’re old enough to get that reference. 

What we mean is that people (also known as consumers) tend to get behind a certain thing and then champion that until something better comes along. If there are two (or more) competing technologies, we pick a side and champion that. In a nutshell, it’s HD-DVD and Blu-Ray: two products with basically identical results, whittled down to one by the new democratic standard – voting with your wallet. 

At the moment, we’re being offered things that we didn’t really ask for. That’s fine, of course; as Henry Ford said all those years ago, “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” And so much of what has propelled the industry forward over the past few decades has been the introduction of technology we didn’t understand at first, didn’t want for a long while and rely on now. 

Think about ABS and its progenies, traction and stability control. For a long time, the consensus was to switch the benighted thing off at the first opportunity and reclaim “real driving”. That was back in the early days of both the technology and the public reception. Now, it’s a fundamental piece of tech that saves nearly countless accidents. It stands to reason, then, that we’ll look back on these dark days, before emissions-free, fully autonomous cars (and whatever other tech gets tacked on in the interim) and shake our heads in disdain. As ever, watch this space – and maybe the skies, too.

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