In an even bigger scam than college itself, people can now get a degree in a concept that’s been around for 100 years and still hasn’t caught on: flying cars.
Online school Udacity, which offers “nanodegrees” for mastering certain skills in a shorter period of time than a typical college degree, now has a “Flying Cars and Autonomous Flight” nanodegree. That’s in addition to ones for things like “unreal VR,” an introduction to self-driving cars, autonomous engineering, artificial intelligence, iOS development and some more normal topics. Udacity’s website says the flying-car nanodegree will take about six months to complete.
Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun founded Udacity, starting the school off with a free “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” class online in 2011. Thrun also happens to be the professor on the upcoming course, and the CEO of a flying-car company that makes things that aren’t really flying cars.
The BBC reports that Thrun wants to get at least 10,000 applicants for the class, for which applications close for on Feb. 7. Udacity’s website says people who apply should have “substantial” programming experience and decent knowledge of algebra, calculus, statistics, probability and physics, and the regular price for the two three-month terms of the class is $1,200 each.
It all looks great on the surface: Paying $2,400 for six months of curriculum on flying cars, which tech junkies from all over will tell you are the next big thing, sounds like a great deal. The instructors also seem to have a ton of experience.
Thrun said in a promotional video that flying cars feel like science fiction now, but that there will be a lot of activity around it in the next few years. “In a few years’ time, he said in a promotional video for the class, “This will be one of the hottest topics on the planet.”
The thing is, Thrun’s company, Kitty Hawk, isn’t making flying cars right now. It’s making little one-person, piloted drones, like a lot of flying-car projects—not something that can drive the kids to school on public roads then fly off. Flying cars also aren’t some hot new thing that’s about to take over the scene: They’ve been around for nearly 100 years, but haven’t caught on because it’s so hard to make an actual flying car—at least, in America.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s requirements for ground and air vehicles vary significantly, meaning it’s hard to fit all of the requirements for both. In order to be road legal, a vehicle called the Terrafugia Transition needed special permission to use plastic windows and motorcycle tires to lighten it up.
That being said, maybe Thrun and Udacity finally have found the secrets to flying cars. But if the idea is to teach people how to make things like Thrun’s Kitty Hawk “flying car,” the class should probably learn the definition first.