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Text size – + Entrepreneurship Terrafugia unveils TF-X concept vehicle: A plug-in hybrid that takes off like a helicopter and (almost) flies itself

Isn’t there an old saying about learning to fly before you can fly?

If so, aviation startup Terrafugia is willfully disregarding it. The Woburn company is unveiling today a concept design for a future product called the TF-X — well before it has delivered its first product, the much-touted Transition “roadable aircraft.” (Here’s the Transition on “Good Morning America” last year.)

But in talking to Terrafugia CEO Carl Dietrich last Friday, he made it clear that the company looks at the TF-X as the kind of vehicle that could — big could — usher flying cars into the mainstream. It would be capable of taking off and landing vertically, outside of an airport. (Heliports or empty lots are fair game, as long as you have permission.) It would have “fly-by-wire” controls that would let you set your destination, and have the vehicle navigate to it with minimal pilot involvement. It’d be a plug-in hybrid outfitted with both batteries and an internal combustion engine, which would presumably make it more fuel efficient than most of today’s “general aviation” (a/k/a private) aircraft. The TF-X would have a 500 mile range. And as with the Transition, if you encountered bad weather, rather than trying to fly through it, you would simply land at the nearest safe spot and drive the rest of the way to your destination, at highway speeds.
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