Let's face it -- wheels are pretty limited. Once you're no longer rolling on a relatively flat surface, things become problematic. Slowly, your eyes will shift to your own legs, which can traverse landscapes that aren't flat with relative ease. So why not make a vehicle that walks? Hell, they even had them in the Star Wars universe.
It didn't end well.
Sadly, in the real world, shit just doesn't fly that way. The closest that we as humans got to a vehicle with legs was riding on the backs of other animals -- everything else has proven to be a terrifying carnival attraction.
The military even decided to give legs a go -- and threw tons of money at it, coming up with the walking truck, with such features as being hideous and impossible to control:
The driver has to use his or her own legs to manipulate those of the walking truck. It's also as slow as ketchup in a glass bottle, the problem being that although legs are flexible as far as terrain, they aren't exactly efficient in turning pure force into speed. Add the fact that making good legs is extremely complex and potentially expensive, and you're left with a pretty terrible vehicle. So the military dropped the project entirely.
Hint: Transformers didn't turn into wheeled vehicles just because they thought it looked cool.
The most prominent nuclear-powered car concept was the Ford Nucleon, which we have to admit looks pretty rad.
It's like a radioactive Batmobile.
This was suggested by Ford in 1958, back when we didn't know things. Basically, the reactor sits in the back of the car, with the cab situated slightly farther up front than in a normal car to protect the driver and passengers from radioactivity, a solution that is as hilarious as it is a complete failure to understand both atomic science and rear-end collisions.
Supposedly the Nucleon could travel up to 5,000 miles before it needed to be recharged, at which point it would be taken to a charging station to be reactivated (that is, presumably have the nuclear fuel replaced -- you'd trust the guy at 7-Eleven to do that, right?).
"All victims of catastrophic reactor failure qualify for a free 22-oz. Slurpee!"
Nobody really likes buses -- they're slow and ugly and take up way too much space on the road. But as a "green" mode of transportation, it sure as hell beats 100 separate cars idling in rush-hour traffic. So what we need is a bus that can carry a bunch of people but also zip through the streets and get everyone to their destinations, regardless of congestion. That'd make people want to ride, right?
That's why a group of Chinese engineers designed a bus that can just drive over everything else.
This makes nothing but sense.
The Chinese are 100 percent serious about using these things, by the way. In fact, the designers plan to have them up and running in China sometime in 2011.
It is less of a bus and more of a tram/temporary mobile tunnel/piece of insanity. We suppose that in theory, if you want to get through traffic jams, a good way to do it is to drive over the jam. But any accidents that occur in this thing's maw will be amplified to spectacular degrees when you add in the extra factor of a fucking bus collapsing in on the scene from above.
How long until Bruce Willis has to fight a bunch of terrorists off one of these?
Also, the new infrastructure that will become necessary in order to use these monstrosities will have to be built from scratch due to the fact that the normal bus stop won't reach the doors, which are about nine feet off the ground. They're going to have to build new platforms, install elevators for the wheel-chair-bound (or lazy i-REAL users) and lay rails on the roads, which will definitely screw up traffic. Why don't they just make a damn subway like everybody else?
Interestingly enough, the designers are trying to bring this idea to the U.S., although they are struggling to find manufacturers.
"All this could be yours!"
There has never in the history of technology been a greater gap between concept and reality than the flying car. The idea of a flying car is perfect -- no roads, no traffic, no way the cops are catching you if you decide to rob a bank. But every attempt to actually build one makes us a little sadder.
Behold the Terrafugia Transition, a Boston company's attempt at a Jetsonian future of flying cars:
It is by far the most advanced flying car on sale today--so advanced that it warranted a place on Time Magazine's 50 best inventions of 2010. Believe it or not, the Terrafugia is actually one of the ones that looks the least like the talking car from Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Flying car my ass, guys. This is a plane.
What could possibly be bad about a car that can fly? As it turns out, many things, most importantly the need for a freaking runway.
A flying car is still basically an airplane, after all, so you still need a long uninterrupted stretch to get up to flying speed. And it isn't like the Terrafugia is fast either. It has a maximum 115 mph flying speed, with a cruising speed of 107 mph, which you may notice isn't much faster than the 70 mph speed limit of most highways in the US. And the Terrafugia's maximum land speed is 65 mph, so you might as well slap your dreams in the face right now and save it the trouble.
Danny Vittore is a freelance writer. If you feel the need to contact him, his email is Dannyvittore@gmail.com
For more terrible ideas in vehicle design, check out 6 Movies With Uplifting Messages (That Can Kill You). Or get your training on with montages, in 5 Amazing Buildings of the Future (And How They'll Kill You).
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