Why the 2022 Detroit Auto Show has a ‘Jetsons’ vibe

DETROIT — The 2022 Detroit Auto Show is part “Flintstones” and part “Jetsons,” according to the show’s executive director.

The show pays a bit of homage to automotive past – some parts real and other parts fiction, like the famed Flintmobile from the classic TV cartoon “The Flintstones.”

But it also has futuristic-looking flying vehicles, which both Detroit Auto Dealers Association executive director Rod Alberts and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan compared to “The Jetsons,” the old cartoon series set in the future.

“George Jetson was born in 2022, if you follow the history,” Alberts said. “It seems kind of appropriate that we have flying mobility – most of it drone-powered – and having hoverboards and hoverbikes and showing what our kids and our grandkids will someday have (for) common mobility and travel.”

The Detroit Auto Show – which is open to the public until Sept. 25, features six flying vehicles.

Some were scheduled to fly at Media Day on Wednesday, Sept. 14, but were forced to cancel due to President Joe Biden’s visit. Air Force One took priority in the airspace.

The gravity-defying vehicles include a hoverboard, a hoverbike, an “amphibious” aircraft, an electric machine that transports pods of cargo or passengers, a jet suit and more.

Some of the machines will take flight in the coming days. Here’s the schedule of when to catch the flight demonstrations:

ICON A5 amphibious (because they can land in water) light aircraft: Every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 15 through Sunday, Sept. 18, landing on the Detroit River in front of Huntington Place

Omni hoverboard: 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17 and 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18, all at the Riverwalk-Hart Plaza

AIR ONE: The two-seater flying machine will have a virtual reality experience for people to try at its indoor display throughout the event.

Airspace Experience Technologies Sigma-6: The indoor exhibit isn’t leaving the ground, but will turn on its propellers to show how quiet its electric motor is.

The Detroit Auto Show has typically relied on concept cars to put future ideas on display for consumers. But in 2022, most of the futuristic concepts don’t stay grounded.

There are four concept cars on display at the show: two Lincolns, a Lexus and a Buick.

A peek into the future

One of the flying vehicles on display at the auto show has a Detroit headquarters.

The Sigma-6 is a product from Airspace Experience Technologies, which is based at the Coleman Young Airport in Detroit. It’s one of a few eVTOLs at the show – which stands for electric vertical takeoff and landing machine.

In other words, they launch like a helicopter and then fly like a plane.

The Sigma-6 is fully electric and connects to either cargo pods or passenger pods. It can carry up to 2,000 pounds, go 25 to 50 miles and fly at 150 mph. The vehicle has flown off the ground before and was unveiled to the public for the first time at the Detroit Auto Show.

“Our target is to make this competitive with taxi cabs, going from a regional airport to a major metropolitan airport,” Chief Engineer Gregg Peterson said. “We see this as a way to get people there quicker.”

The machines are designed to fly at low-altitude levels, below 5,000 feet.

The company plans to be flying cargo by 2025 and people a few years after that. The goal is for them to be fully autonomous by 2030.

The battery is built into the pods – so the propellers never need to be out of commission for charging. The pods click into the propellers in less than a minute, Peterson said.

Peterson envisions the Sigma-6 being used for medical evacuation flights, delivering parts from suppliers to assembly plants and fighting forest fires – in addition to transporting people.

“Our traffic congestion gets worse and worse and worse every year,” Peterson said. “So this is a way to elevate people, take them off the ground and give them a very enjoyable, hydrocarbon-free ride.”

Japanese startup makes U.S. debut

Another futuristic flying device at the auto show is the Xturismo – which is a hoverbike/”luxury air cruiser.” The hovering machines are already available in Japan for $777,000.

The Xturismo was unveiled in the U.S. for the first time on Wednesday at the Detroit Auto Show. It has a 25-mile range with a maximum speed of about 62 mph.

Alberts got a ride on the remote-controlled bike on Tuesday.

“It was incredible,” Alberts said. “I thought, ‘I don’t have to deal with traffic, I can just go right over top.’”

The Xturismo was among the vehicles that were supposed to fly Wednesday, but postponed due to Biden’s visit. The hoverbike won’t be on display by the time the public show starts, said Aerwins Technologies CEO Shuhei Komatsu, who invented the machine.

Komatsu was inspired by the speeder bikes in “Star Wars” and wanted to bring the cinematic ideal to life.

Luxury air vehicles could be the future, Komatsu said, as they can reduce traffic congestion and crashes involving pedestrians – plus roads and related infrastructure would no longer be necessary.