From Movie Screens to City Streets: Hoverboard, Flying Cars and SkyWay Transport

From Movie Screens to City Streets: Hoverboard, Flying Cars and SkyWay Transport

23 October 2017 10957


The first part of the movie became so cult-favorite that now in one of the best universities in the world ― Massachusetts Institute of Technology ― they teach a course, in which students discuss the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick that was the literary centerpiece of the movie. That course was required in the Alma mater for many stars of hi-tech industry, because, in the opinion of the Institute’s management, the ability to predict technological trends and the ability to translate sci-fi ideas into the real world are the most important skills for innovators and inventors. Here and there, science fiction is coming off movie screens and pages of books into the material world, and we often do not even notice how quickly it happens.

Many of the iconic images of science fiction are somehow related to the transport sector. Our reality is so dull and depressing with hours-long traffic jams and packed to capacity route taxis, however, movies and literature draw for us a rosy and beautiful future. Instantaneous transfers, great cities criss-crossed with a network of multilevel weightless roads, flying cars, space travels ― this is all fiction. But it’s not for nothing that scientists love science fiction, whilst engineers and developers have already put many fancies of scriptwriters on notice.

Let’s consider three spectacular examples of how a sci-fi fairy tale became a reality right before our very eyes.


It would be hard to list all the movies, books and computer games, in which the characters are flying above the ground on a board. The classical trilogy “Back to the future” produced by Robert Zemeckis has introduced the word “hoverboard” to denote such board. The movie has acquired loyal fans, who are still dreaming to ride on a flying board.

And not so long ago their dreams approached closer to realization: the auto giant Lexus has presented its version of a hoverboard, which, however, can fly only above special magnetic rails. In addition to Lexus, the company Arx Pax presented a version, more similar to the hoverboard from the movie. The technology that formed the basis for a hovering skateboard Hendo, has been developing by Greg Henderson for twenty years. Through trial and error, he came up with the idea to use electromagnetic fields to create between the earth’s surface and the structure an “air cushion” capable to fully absorb all the destructive vibrations. The price of this hoverboard is claimed at the level of 10 thousand US dollars, and now anyone willing can order a demonstration copy of the original for $ 299. It is made in the form of a levitating box that can carry weight of up to 20 kilograms. However, this option still has a significant difference from the device in the movie “Back to the future 2”. Hendo needs a conductive surface, it can float above aluminum and copper, but it does not hold up above steel and nickel. In General, although some perfection is still needed, those wishing to bring the future closer are quite enough.

This is how Marty McFly’s hoverboard looked like in “Back to the future 2”. And this is the view the Hendo hoverboard

 Flying cars

Another technology, which is often used in sci-fi movies and books (including the aforementioned “Back to the Future”), is a flying car. There are a lot of movie versions for this transport, they are also shown in “The Fifth Element” by Luc Besson and “Blade Runner” by Ridley Scott. In Soviet cinema Kolya Gerasimov in “The Guest from the Future” flew on flying mini-cars. The name of a fantastic flying vehicle, capable to fly even in space, from the movie “Kin-Dza-Dza” by Georgy Danelia became a genericized word ― now many car owners call their cars “pepelats”.

In “The Fifth Element” flying vehicles looked less futuristic than they turned out to be in life.

 SkyWay transport

Cities of the future in science fiction consist of giant skyscrapers and multi-level air routes with vehicles floating along them in the air. Many countries are now trying to implement the image publicized in hundreds of movies and books. In “Metropolis” (1927) by Fritz Lang, it was possible to see massive multi-level overpasses for trains. And even earlier, in the first decade of the twentieth century, one of ideological inspirers of steam-punk Harry Grant Dart drew multi-level intersections of bustling cities pierced with a network of thin string-roads.

Urbanists and engineers are now increasingly scratching their heads not over the way to build a skyscraper taller, but over the way to make the city more environmentally friendly and comfortable. One of such projects is being developed in Belarus. SkyWay Technologies Co. offers a “green” and safe alternative to conventional railroads and automobile highways. To replace them the Company has already developed and is now actively testing automated string-rail tracks, which will be able to traffic passenger and freight trains. There is no need to build such transport on the land; lightweight pre-stressed structures can be located at several levels and stretched from building to building. It is assumed that the speed, with which people will be able to ride using this technology, will reach 500 and more kilometers per hour. In the future, forevacuum can be used to increase the speed of the string transport. The author of this development, engineer Anatoly Yunitskiy put forward this idea in late 70s. Of course, this will make the technology more complex and expensive, but the speed rate will rise to 1,250 km/h. However, these are plans for the future, and already today anyone can see the first samples of the new transport at the test-site of SkyWay Technologies Co. in the town of Maryina Gorka.

In the early twentieth century, the future was presented as made of concrete and stones.

In the twenty first century, the visualization has changed, the future has become not only closer, but also “greener”.

 source - KP.BY (in Russian)

Ales Plotko

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