Are flying cars the next big thing in transport?

Expert: On-demand air transport on the horizon

Uber announced earlier this year that the company believes investing in flying cars is essential to protecting its business, and envisions full-scale operations of a flying car network launching in 2023.

Flying cars are becoming more than a novelty imagined in films such as "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "The Fifth Element."

Aeronautics giants are cautiously exploring the technology, and it appears to be catching on, AFP reported.

AeroMobile, a flying-driving hybrid, was featured at this year's Paris Air Show and is set to be produced by 2020. The Slovakian company that produces the vehicle, which has retractable wings, is already receiving orders for the hybrid (it costs upwards of $1.3 million).

Driving-flying hybrids used to be a "cross between a bad car and a bad plane," Brun Sainjon, head of the French aerospace lab ONERA, told AFP at the Paris Air Show. 

But design has come far in recent years and could make on-demand air travel "commonplace" within a decade.

"And we're not far from having the capacity to transport one or two men for about 20 minutes," Xavier Duterte, director of the Techoplane project based in Normandy, told AFP. "In five to 10 years, that will have become commonplace."

Sainjon said the next big thing is "a system of on-demand air transport, which would clearly be the start of a new era for aviation." 

Pascal Pincemin, an aerospace specialist with Deloitte, told AFP that he sees flying cars as "too risky" for the general public to use.

He sees the future as having something more like Uber's "Elevate" project, a network of electric aircraft in development. Uber is expected to start demonstrations in 2020.