Inventor Paul Moller dedicates life to creating a workable flying car
DAVIS, Calif. (CBS News) -- "Back to the Future"'s flying DeLorean never made it to your driveway, but one man has spent the better part of his life and fortune trying to turn science fiction into reality.
Paul Moller told CBS News' John Blackstone that he first started thinking about building a flying car when he was a child.
"I first got curious about flying when I rescued a hummingbird when I was 5 years old in Canada," said Moller. "As I let it go, it hovered for a second, then just disappeared, and I thought, boy, that's a great way to get to school."
He told Blackstone that he felt that if he could "imitate the hummingbird, my life would change."
Celebrated on television and film for decades, the flying car has remained an elusive dream for many, but Moller has dreamed longer than most.
Blackstone first talked to Moller 25 years ago. Back then, he showed the reporter a flying saucer-like model that he'd been working on since 1967. He told Blackstone that he doesn't get discouraged in his quest to make a flying car.
"I think we have enough periodic successes that we keep going," he said.
All these years later, Moller's "Skycar" has flown but at the end of a tether for safety, and he's now waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration to categorize the unique aircraft before he can test it with a pilot.
The venture hasn't been cheap, and development has set Moller back millions of dollars.
"Well, if you take everything we've spent - and this is kind of an average of about two-and-a-half million dollars a year for 40 years - so that comes out around $100 million, but much of that money I've had to create by other businesses," he said.
Moller made millions selling mufflers, but he has spent most of it trying to become the Henry Ford of flying cars.
"At some point in time, certainly within the next 10 years, you'll be able to buy this vehicle for the price of a good automobile," he said.
Moller estimated the price would be less than $70,000.
"We think we can build the engines for about $30 per horsepower," he said. "We have roughly 1,000 horsepower, so we have $30,000 in the engines. The vehicle itself costs about the same amount as the engine, so $60,000."
What's more, Moller says his fully automated Skycar will do the driving for you, and without distractions like traffic, stop signs and pedestrians, it will be a safer way to travel.
"You're going to be delivered," he said. "You can sleep. You can read. You can play computer games. You can work on the way."
Moller told Blackstone that it is surprising how many people have had a similar dream to his.
"I'm not the only guy that wanted to imitate the hummingbird," he said. "There's a very large part of the population, aside from the idea of getting out of the damned traffic jams out there. That mobility, that's more than just getting out of traffic. That's getting to a different life."
While his dream has been in the works for years, Moller isn't ready to give up.
"It has been elusive because it's got the fairly large amount of money attached to it to make it happen," he said. "But we've had clever people. We've had patience, and we've had the time to make it happen."
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