Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Spotlight
  2. Devolution
27 June 2014updated 24 Jun 2021 12:59pm

“Sky cars” are coming to Tel Aviv

Flying cars! Sort of.

By Barbara Speed

By 2015, Back to the Future promised us, flying cars were meant to be a thing. Yet here we are, six months away, and they haven’t even invented the hoverboard.

Good news for those who’ve grown sick of driving on the ground, though: this week Californian engineering company SkyTran unveiled plans for the world’s first “sky cars”, which’ll launch in Tel Aviv next year. Each car will be a pod suspended from an aerial track by magnetic force; the system is not dissimilar to the MagLev technology already used on some trains.

Initially the cars will whizz around the track at the slightly disappointing speed of 43 mph, although the firm’s engineers claim that later models will be able to manage higher speeds, of up to 150 mph. The length of the first journey will be a little disappointing, too: the first track will be built at the Israel Aerospace Industries campus and will be just 500m long. But, if all goes to plan, a commercial line will be built in Tel Aviv within the next two years. The whole project will cost around $80m (£47m) to construct.

How quickly they’ll make that investment back is not exactly clear: each pod will have just two plush seats, one in front of the other. A ride would set you back around 17 Israeli shekels (around £2.90, or $4.94), which is only a bit more than a bus, but with the added bonus that you don’t have to sit next to anyone. That suggests they’ll need to sell 16.2 million rides before even the initial capital costs are covered.

SkyTran claims the system will have other advantages. It’ll run on minimal power. It should rarely need repair (no flat tyres here). The company claims, too, that the computer-controlled network will help ease congestion on roads, and that “traffic jams are unheard of on the SkyTran network”. If demand’s there, the network could be expanded, and by 2016 could even cut through buildings (no, we don’t know how either).

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Toulouse, Kerala, and San Francisco all have plans to develop similar projects. Depending on the outcome of the next mayoral election, Londoners could be commuting in Christian cars or Coe cars before too long.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them

This is a preview of our new sister publication, CityMetric. We’ll be launching its website soon – in the meantime, you can follow it on Twitter and Facebook.