You Can Now Take an Online Course in Flying-Car Engineering

Talk about wishful thinking.

YouTube / Kitty Hawk

Despite the feverish proclamations of Airbus, Uber, and a constellation of startups, it's still unclear whether flying cars will actually work in the real world. But that hasn't stopped online teaching startup Udacity from offering a course in flying-car engineering.

Udacity, which also offers a course in self-driving cars, is accepting applications for the flying-car course and plans to begin classes in February. Udacity founder and self-driving car engineer Sebastian Thrun told Reuters that he expects at least 10,000 people to sign up for the course.

The so-called "nano degree" program consists of two 12-week terms, at $1,200 each. Individual classes include "Aerial Robotics" and "Intelligent Air Systems." Udacity's online courses are designed to accredit students in specific fields at a fraction of the time and cost of traditional education. Thrun believes this will quickly train a large number of engineers for the tech industry.

Thrun was the first leader of Google's self-driving car project, now known as Waymo. Prior to that, managed Stanford University teams in the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge and 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge self-driving car contests. He retains close ties to Google parent Alphabet, specifically with co-founder Larry Page. That helps explain Thrun's interest in teaching people about flying cars.

Both Page and Thrun are involved with flying-car startup Kitty Hawk Corporation. Thrun is Kitty Hawk's chief executive and a co-owner of the company. Thrun told Reuters that "'flying car' might be a bit of a misnomer—more of an attention grabber." Kitty Hawk's prototype (pictured above) is indeed decidedly un-carlike, but Thrun said the company is serious about developing some form of personal flying vehicle.

Udacity's online course could provide Thrun with a pool of engineers to make his flying-car dreams a reality, but it's hard not to think he and other like-minded tech personalities are jumping the gun here. People have been trying to develop flying cars for decades, and invariably failed. What makes these latest flying-car efforts any different?