Right Driver

How would flying cars change life in the UK?

With drone technology and the kind of smarts being developed for automation, flying cars for the masses have never been closer. While we will not see thousands in the sky in the next few years, the possibility of using AI to create and control new transport options is very real.

Permitting flying cars in the UK would bring both benefits and challenges.

Traffic reduction

If you live in or have to travel through London, Bristol or Manchester, congratulations on your patience. They are the top three most congested cities in the UK. Schlepping along the road network sucks, but flying above it could knock 75% off the time taken. Consider a trip from Watford to Croydon: 60 miles around the M25 and on a good day, leaving at 8am, it’ll take 1.5 hours; on a bad day, 3 hours. However, it’s only 23 miles as the crow flies, so in a flying car at 50 miles per hour, you’re there in a consistent 30 minutes or less every time. Of course, there might be the odd bit of congestion at approved landing places – Croydon is very urbanised, so you’d have to land somewhere and then drive along the streets to your final destination, even if flying cars had some kind of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) feature, like a drone. Ultimately, the roads will still be congested for the final mile or two, so it’ll be unlikely you’ll avoid traffic completely.

Urban restructuring


While flying cars could theoretically operate on our roads like a normal vehicle, there are a lot of other infrastructure considerations such as how existing buildings and roads will copy with the size and shape of flying cars.

Landing and parking

Landing spaces will be valuable and may need some kind of air traffic control if they are public. If you have your own property with enough room to land, then this is not an issue, but if you are flying into an urban area then there must be designated landing spots otherwise landing will be dangerous and chaotic, plus would create hazards for pedestrians and personal property. Imagine you’re walking along the path and a flying car tries to land next to you – you’ll be blown over.

It’s likely that there will be flat concreted areas for VTOL vehicles which would be given a brief landing timeslot and would then have to drive and park somewhere else.

It’s unlikely that you will be able to land on a road. There may be public flying car parking spaces that are located on the top floor of car park buildings. Some car park buildings that are underutilized may even designate their roof as a landing space, then the fees for it are covered by the vehicles having to park on another level or exit onto the street.

Air traffic control

If flying cars can all be installed with a standard software package that can communicate to all other flying cars in the vicinity, and if take-off and landing are automated, then there would be minimal need for air traffic control. However, guiding multiple flying cars into a landing zone without a collision may require some kind of control, particularly because in a VTOL vehicle, it’s hard to see what’s beneath you.

Technology would have to be employed to keep flying cars out of the airspace of major airports.

Sales and testing

To buy the vehicles, people will have to be trained (unless the flying part is mostly autonomous), and there will need to be the ability to take one for a test drive/fly. This will require new kinds of showrooms to be built.

Diversion of funds for road building

If flying cars are reducing road traffic, then funding may need to be made available to encourage their uptake and to build services for them.

Flying cars could create opportunities in other areas of a city that had been previously difficult to access, for example, where there’s a bottleneck because of a bridge, or where people might need to take a long journey to cross a river.

Reduced fuel and better efficiency

Taking our example above of a bridge creating a bottleneck: let’s say you live in Gravesend on the south side of the Thames, but you work in Tilbury on the north side. It’s less than 2 miles as the crow flies. You could take a ferry. Or, you could drive 20 miles via the A282 across the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge at Dartford Crossing. Driving is ten times the distance. Light aircraft are less efficient than cars, so you would save fuel, but not in the same proportion. However, it would take only 5 minutes rather than 40-50 minutes.

Rural benefits

Where there are minimal bus services, flying cars may be able to serve as hyper-efficient taxis, or could reduce the time taken to drive between villages.

Medical benefits

Let’s say you live in the west of Scotland, an hour’s drive south from Glencoe in Kilmore. It’s winter, snowing, and you’ve just gone into a complicated labour. The nearest ambulance has to come from Belford, which is 25 minutes’ north of Glencoe on a good day. A doctor and midwife with a flying car would be able to do this journey in around 30 minutes. That could be the difference between life and death.


Initially, flying cars would be a novelty and this would open up a tourist opportunity, particularly if it gave low-altitude access to areas not accessible by helicopters and light aircraft. There is a risk of overtourism to sensitive places, though.

Natural disasters

While not necessarily the optimal vehicle for it, flying cars may be useful to get emergency services personnel into natural disaster areas, or to help people evacuate when roads and bridges are impassible.


There may need to be some substantial changes to the Highway Code, as well as how driver licences are obtained and renewed. We have to consider that by the time this is available at a price affordable to the masses, autonomous flying/driving technology will be advanced enough that the vehicle occupants could be ‘passengers’ as opposed to actively involved in controlling the vehicle.

However, just in case things go wrong, or for specific flying and landing scenarios, it would be essential for the driver to be able to take control.


Rules would have to be created about where flying cars are not permitted. It might be that flying cars cannot fly over densely populated areas due to the crash risk. I.e. they may have to follow either existing roads, or open farmland. Sightseeing over people’s private land and landing in places they shouldn’t be landing could be a problem with some flying car owners. They may also try to access forbidden areas or areas that might experience environmental degradation through increased visitation.

If the cars have VTOL capabilities then what would stop people trying to land in nature reserves or hover outside Sandringham House or Balmoral Castle trying to get a glimpse of the King?


Flying cars are inevitable, just not imminent. There’s a lot of planning to be done and a lot of legal liability to be worked out. The technology exists today, but there are legislative hurdles that could take years to resolve. In the interim, flying cars will be prohibitively expensive for the majority. This isn’t a concern because almost all new technology starts out expensive but desirable enough that those with money embrace it. Economies of scale then bring the price down over time.

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

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