Flying cars, not really a priority right now

Entrepreneur Development Minister Redzuan Yusof announced earlier this week that a prototype of Malaysia’s first flying car, developed using local technology, would be unveiled to the public later this year. This is highly commendable – or is it?

In truth, the flying car is a vanity project which will only benefit a few rich people. Or perhaps it is a “syok sendiri” project, an exercise in self-aggrandisement.

No one is trying to slam the brakes on this technological marvel or derail the aspirations of budding scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, but the country should prioritise its needs.

Some years ago, the government sent an astronaut into space. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor did some experiments on liver cells, but he also produced a guideline on praying in a low-gravity environment, how to locate Mecca from the International Space Station, how to calculate prayer times and how to address the issue of fasting in space. Many were unconvinced of the relevance of these matters to their daily lives.

Redzuan should know that we are saddled with numerous problems on the road, in addition to having to deal with the fluctuating price of fuel. We have issues with tolls, Proton, the lack of an efficient public transport system, and bad drivers. East Malaysians do not even have a fully functioning road system.

Until now, we have had to look left and right to make sure it is safe before we cross the road. Will we soon have to look up as well, to make sure there are no flying cars heading towards us?

A significant percentage of the population drive without a licence or vehicle insurance. Even luxury car owners flout the rules. So how will we enforce them on flying cars?

Our roads are congested – will our air space end up congested, too? We have enough problems with Mat Rempits on the ground. The prospect of “Mat Burungs” racing in the skies with modified flying cars is not a pleasant one. If they crash, bits of metal and body parts are likely to come raining down on our roofs and balconies.

We are trying to cut down on pollution and noise levels. Will the relevant ministries be up to the task of enforcing safe emission standards? We can’t even locate and prosecute those who dump industrial effluent into our rivers; how are we going to find errant owners of flying cars?

Malaysian drivers are among the worst in the world. Will the pilots of flying cars be better policed? Will we experience cars dropping out of the sky at alarming rates?

Who will enforce air safety? The flying squad of the PDRM? The Department of Civil Aviation? Will air traffic control costs increase because of the heavy traffic? Will flying car air zones be established in cities to stop pilots from violating airspace and to keep the people safe?

What technology will be used for the flying cars? Batteries? Aviation fuel? If it is the latter, where will fuel stations be placed? Will they only be found in major cities? In that case, people might as well just drive their cars.

Where will the landing strips be located? Will local authorities be able to incorporate these into city plans? Or do flying cars roll up to airports?

Many British airports were recently forced to stop airplanes from landing and taking off because drones had been spotted in their airspace. Similar security issues will have to be addressed here as well. No-fly zones will have to be established, and flight plans for flying cars will have to be lodged.

Other issues must be addressed as well, like flying, journey and maintenance costs, and the convenience and viability of having flying cars to begin with.

Minister Redzuan might not agree, but his flying car project crashed even before it was unveiled. There are many more important and pressing priorities on which technical expertise, money and time should be spent, especially as the government has said that public spending must be curbed.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.