The first “flying car” of the 21st century is ready for the road.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has granted a three-year hardship exemption that will allow the Terrafugia Transition to be driven on public roads, according to its designers.

The Transition, which the company often describes as a “roadable aircraft” rather than a flying car, is a two-seat prop plane that can be transformed into a wheeled vehicle capable of being driven at highway speeds.

The unique craft was designed with road use in mind, and incorporates a number of automotive safety features, such as crumple zones and airbags.

However, the main hurdles to DOT approval were the use of motorcycle tires that aren’t approved for multi-purpose vehicles and a polycarbonate windshield, both of which the company says needed to keep the weight of the 970-pound Transition as low as possible for efficient flight.

The Transition, which has completed several successful test flights, is expected to enter production in late 2012.

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