Chinese scientists make flying cars if you count 1,378 inches (35 millimeters) as flight. It’s actually an experiment in magnetic levitation (maglev) technology to “study road design and safety measures for high-speed driving,” according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.
Researchers at Southwest Jiaotong University laid conductor rails along a 4.91-mile (7.9-kilometer) road for testing. Eight vehicles received an array of permanent magnets underneath.
Basically, the maglev system uses magnets that repel each other. By adjusting the magnetic field, something like a train (or a car for that matter) can move down the track.
The demonstration video (above) only shows the vehicle moving at a fairly low speed, but the maglev technology can reach high speeds. In one test during this experiment, they hit nearly 143 miles per hour (230 kilometers per hour), according to Xinhua report.
It is not clear if passengers can determine the speed of the vehicle as it floats or if it has something to do with the conductor rods on the road that regulate the speed. Also, the video shows no steering control as the people in the car follow a predetermined path.
“Our next step is to focus on developing actual vehicles to realize the beautiful vision of seeing the first maglev cars ‘float and run,'” Dr. Zigang Deng, university maglev technology research team leader say to South China Morning Post.
None of the reports mention any real-world applications for building maglev-enabled cars. For this to work, there needs to be a road that can support these vehicles.
While creating a maglev-enabled vehicle is a novel idea, considering how one might look is not so new, In 2017, Renault awarded an industrial design student at Central Saint Martins art college in London for the person’s magnetic levitating vehicle. The Float concept is a ball with space for two passengers and several of them can be fitted together for communal and autonomous vehicles.