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Volvo's Parent Company Just Bought a Flying Car Startup

China's Geely, which also owns Volvo and other car companies, just bought a startup that makes flying cars.

The small privately held aviation company, Terrafugia, which is aiming to produce a practical flying car, or more accurately a street legal aircraft, is being bought by the Chinese carmaker Geely, a company that also owns Volvo and Lotus.

Terrafugia started in 2006 by graduates from the MIT with the goal of building and selling a street legal vehicle with foldable wings that can transition into an airplane. While the flying car utopia of tomorrow still remains a pipe dream to many, the Transition roadable aircraft by Terrafugia has received deposits from hopeful buyers representing potential revenues over $25 million. The company has even flown a production prototype on several test flights representing a tangible example of a flying car.

Unlike more recent concepts of flying cars that are capable of vertical flight, the Transition still requires a runway for takeoff and landing. Plus, the aircraft is not autonomous and the pilot will be required to earn an official pilot certificate in order to take the controls.

The aircraft employs a clever automatically folding wing mechanism which won the company a role as a contractor for the DARPA Transformer TX. The Transformer TX is a roadable aircraft demonstrator for the U.S. military that incorporates deployable surface technology.

However, no one has been handed keys to a personal flying car and the company has seemingly shifted focus. 

In 2013 Terrafugia announced plans to develop a new vertical takeoff and landing successor to the Transition dubbed the TF-X. TF-X is described as a plug-in hybrid tiltrotor vehicle and a fully autonomous flying car, but no prototype has been announced for the TF-X.

Eleven years after its ambitious beginnings, Terrafugia is being absorbed by the Chinese automobile conglomerate. Geely is known for buying up struggling car manufacturers world-wide, buying the Swedish car maker Volvo, the struggling Malaysian car company Proton, and plans to buy the British sports car icon Lotus.

It's hard to know if Geely plans to use the Terrefugia assets as an exotic gimmick or pursue the sci-fi dream that still remains frustratingly elusive.


This article was originally published on Popular Mechanics.