That staple of science fiction films – the flying car – may not be as far off as you think. In fact, depending on your idea of what a flying car actually is, you could say the flying car is already here.

A company in Florida called Maverick has already developed and is selling a flying car which is essentially an off road dune buggy type vehicle with a push prop at the back and a flying wing paraglider canopy that deploys from the roof. It’s approved and classified as a ‘light sports aircraft’ by the FAA in the US, and can be yours for just US$94,000. It has a claimed top speed of 100mph on the ground and cruises in the air at a leisurely 40mph.

But we’d understand if this vehicle didn’t quite match your idea of a flying car, even though technically it may fit the description. We know you’re thinking of Doc Brown’s DeLorean DMC12 (and you can actually pick up one of these in Australia for just $37k at the moment – ask us if you need a car loan) when you think of a flying car, but of course it was really more of a time machine than a flying car anyway.

Well, your prayers may be answered soon, or at least in 2021. A company called Terrafugia, again based in the US, has designed a compact hybrid vehicle capable of carrying up to four people which will be road legal and able to take-off and fly. Called the TF-X, it will be a VTOL craft (vertical take-off or landing), so will not need a runway or length of road to get airborne, only around 30m of clear, level ground.

Like a number of current and historic aircraft types, the TF-X will use two rotors/propellers that can be pointed up like a helicopter’s rotors for take-off and landing, then tilted to a forward position to act more like propellers for forward flight. Terrafugia claims the vehicle will be capable of 315kmh and will have a range of about 800kms.

And if you’re at all familiar with the huge amount of training and learning involved in getting a private pilot’s licence, there’s no need to worry. Terrafugia claims the TF-X will be safer to fly than driving a car on the road – and will come equipped with an on-board computer that will automatically avoid flight hazards such as other aircraft, restricted airspace and even bad weather without any driver/pilot intervention. It will also be able to auto-land in any emergency, and packs an emergency parachute if a powered landing is not possible.

The company anticipates the ultimate sales price will be ‘on a par with very high end luxury cars of today’ so we’re guessing around $500,000? To be honest we’ve not had an application for car finance for a flying car just yet, but we look forward to getting our first one. Perhaps we shouldn’t bother setting up after all.

But perhaps the best bit is the way it looks. We think the TF-X actually looks a little like the DeLorean. What do you think?