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Flying cars coming in the near future?

If driving on California's hectic freeways has frazzled your nerves to the point of near breakdown, and traveling by airplane makes your hair turn whiter than your knuckles, you'd better sit down for this one.

While you and I have been spending our days jockeying for position on California's roadways, NASA has been working out the traffic patterns for when our vehicles are ready to take flight.

NASA's "Highway in the Sky," the revolutionary computer-generated system designed to move a virtually unlimited amount of air traffic through uncontrolled airspace, is nearing completion.

Several companies and inventors are working diligently to make a flying vehicle more than just NASA's pipe dream for the new millennium. In fact, one company, LaBiche, will unveil the prototype for its FSC-1 (Flying Sports Car No. 1) in September at the Aerotech Convention in Los Angeles.

As slick and sleek as a Ferrari when it is in car mode, the FSC-1 is the first vehicle that converts from aircraft to street car at the touch of a button. When its wings, canard and propeller are retracted, it can be parked in any garage or parking space, right next to vehicles capable only of earthbound travel.

A few obstacles to mass ownership:

Price - $175,000.

Assembly - at this stage, it's still a kit you have to put together yourself (for $175,000).

The fact that you would only be able to take off and land from an airport, so you would need a pilot's license.

Another company, Moller International, has found a way around the airport hurdle. The Skycar, a startling-looking vehicle resembling the unintentional offspring of a race car and two small airplanes, can take flight without a long runway. With the Skycar's vertical lift system, you will literally be able to fly up, up and then away - to the grocery store.

Moller has covered the bases when it comes to safety, as well. The Skycar has a backup system in the event of an engine failure due to an unforeseen emergency, such as "bird ingestion." It also has a "Plan B" in case of total critical equipment failure - factory-equipped, his-and-hers parachutes.

The company is banking on receiving Federal Aviation Administration clearance by December 2008. If you want to get your name on the list to purchase one of the first 100 Skycars, you will need to give Moller your name, phone number and a 10 percent deposit on the $995,000 price tag.

OK. So they haven't got all the kinks worked out yet, but you'd better buckle your seat belts, average drivers. The odds are good that you will be behind the wheel of a flying car in your lifetime.

The Web site for the Moller Skycar cites an apt quote by Henry Ford, chairman of the Ford Motor Co., in 1940. "Mark my word: A combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile. But it will come..."

Michelle Groh-Gordy is the owner of InterActive! Traffic School Online at , and writes a syndicated weekly column on driving for the publications of the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.