My dad worked on a flying car in 1938. It was pretty similar to this one in concept, except you had to do the conversion manually, bolting on the wings and propeller. Also it had only three wheels (tricycle style). It really did fly and the company made about 20 of them. But the FAA never approved it, saying that the front wheel mount was too likely to buckle on landing. So, the company sold all the units to the Japanese.
It's a really, really hard engineering problem, which is why they're still working on it over 70 years later.
One problem with flying your own light plane around is what do you do after you land. Rent a car?
The other problem is that flying is more dangerous than driving, and not that many people are cut out to be pilots. I'm only an average driver, so I've never wanted to be a pilot. I'm not a good quick decisionmaker, and flying seems like a good way for me to turn my bad decisions into my funeral.
For example, my cousin took off once from Oakland with his sister on board the Cessna to show her what a good pilot he'd become. But, on what turned out to be her one and only flight, then a pea soup fog rolled in off the Pacific and they spent the next few hours looking for a hole in the fog with an airport in it. As his sister recounted in detail, they finally found one with about a gallon of fuel left.
Even with clear weather, uncareful pilots would get lost all the time. It was hard to figure out where you are. William F. Buckley recounts how when he was a student at Yale, he stayed up five days in a row studying for his finals, then, hopped up on speed, he immediately went to airport to take a celebratory flight. (He'd been a flight instructor in the Army during WWII.) An hour later, he started to come down from his chemical elation and realized he had no idea what state he was over. He finally swooped low enough to read the road signs on the highway and got back to the airport that way.
Okay, the take home message would be that piloting and WFB's pill consumption habits don't go together well. But still ...
So, my question is: Has computerization and GPS and weather forecasting and so forth done much too make being a private pilot safer than a generation ago?a