It’s the year 2017, and everyone has a car. Each year as the population increases, so do the number of cars on the road. In America, we have the highest vehicle-to-person ration at one car for every 1.3 people. With over a billion cars on the road, auto congestion is rough.
The current state of urban mobility looks like a concrete lot full of motionless cars, smells like chemically toxic air, and feels like the tension of an angry traffic mob. In efforts to increase walkability, clean our air, and negate traffic times, brilliant engineers are developing technology to reshape how we experience mobility in the 21st century.
Last year was full of milestones in the realm of driverless technologies, with several successful test runs through Uber and Google’s startup Otto. This year drone deliveries will be hitting the market for widespread commercial application with Amazon’s “Prime Air.”
With driverless technologies and drone capabilities nearly developed, it’s only a matter of time before they combine and we have flying cars and airbus taxis.
Several skyway projects are already underway. Vertical take-off and landing technologies (VTOL) are being tested around the world.
Uber has openly invested into a flying car project known as “Uber Elevate.” Google founder Larry Page has openly invested millions into flying car start-ups and has been working on a flying-car model project of his own. Airbus’s Urban Air Mobility announced prototype testing later this year.
With VTOL technology, flying taxis are expected to hit broad scale production as soon as 2021. Much like Uber or Lyft, an airbus could be summoned using an app on your smart phone. Watch the news and begin dreaming of tomorrow’s world. Don’t be surprised when you find yourself riding a flying drone to work.
The Current State Of Urban Mobility
As we dream of flying cars and numerous tech gadgets are developed, techies have yet to solve the daily struggle of rush hour. In cities like San Francisco, traffic jams are omnipresent. The average American commuter will spend 42 hours stuck in traffic each year. All of this congestion leads to poor physical and mental states.
The biggest criminal cause of our filthy air is the car we drive to work every day. As you drive into a city like Nashville, you can see a cloud of smog hovering over the buildings. Our vehicle transportation system with its toxic CO2 emissions is a huge contributor to the current state of air pollution.
American cities were developed largely after the 1950s, when automobiles were becoming mainstream. Given our excellent economy, U.S. cities rapidly developed over the last century. With everyone driving cars, the cities naturally became auto-centric thus creating suburban sprawl. Infrastructure planners designed widening streets along with ample concrete parking lots and garages. In many cities, public transit systems have been unable to keep up, which leads to more constituents driving cars every day.
Despite suburban sprawls, a few U.S. metro cities have done well with effective public transportation such as trains, subways and buses. New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago to name a few. Cities like Portland have gone a step farther to clear the air by creating a bicyclist culture. Now apps like Uber and Lyft are making it even easier to leave the car at home.
Our cities are made for cars, yet auto accidents are the leading cause of death for American teens. Across the country, automobile deaths total over 1.3 million every year. If smog pollution weren’t enough of an issue, the violence of car crashes should cause some second thoughts. For many factors of human safety and prolonged existence, it’s crucial that we seriously rethink our method of transportation.
VTOL Development, Airbus Taxis, And Flying Cars
Brightening the horizons of clean air, we can dream of transportation with electric flying cars and in smart cities. Futuristic developers like Elon Musk and the minds of Uber are creating the transportation of tomorrow. This helicopter-styled vehicle is the next step.
Co-founder of London transport design studio, Paul Priestman, predicts passenger-carrying drones for the future. He believes they would resemble scaled-up drones. Around the world, engineers are tinkering with startup projects and creating pilot runs for flying cars.
Just this month Uber appointed a NASA engineer to help expand cab services into airborne travel. The pilotless flying service would utilize electric energy instead of gasoline.
In addition, this month Project Vahana in Silicon Valley was launched for a single-passenger flying vehicle. A3 CEO Rodin Lyasoff said, “In as little as ten years, we could have products on the market that revolutionize urban travel for millions of people.”
In January, Chinese drone maker EHang, CEO of Huazhi Hu, showed off his personal autonomous helicopter. The electric car can carry a single passenger up to 10 miles away, or about 23 minutes of flight time. Ehang describes it as faster, easier and more convenient. He imagines luxury rides for the rich ones will characterize the first phase of autonomous aircrafts.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore has their hands deep into skyway projects for airbus helicopters. With the help of Airbus Helicopters, their Skyway Experimentation Project is creating an airborne infrastructure solution.
Experts have said that autonomous flying is easier than autonomous driving. The self-driving car industry has already made so much progress. Last year Google successfully sent a driverless truck on a 120-mile trek. Last summer Uber piloted autonomous fleet sharing in Pittsburgh. Technicians are simply working out the tweaks of radar sensors and vehicle response to the numerous potential obstacles.
Flying cars are not as far out as you might imagine. With the recent development of drone delivery, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has begun sorting out potential issues and airspace regulations. The FAA has quickly adapted to account for increasing air traffic and is making way for pilotless bots.
A Brighter Future
Imagine the economic impact when city planners don’t have to spend billions of dollars to pour concrete for bridges and roads. Along with the development of smart devices connecting through the Internet of Things, urban mobility will continue to improve in efficiency.
The way we move will transcend, becoming safer, faster and more energy efficient. Within the next decade or two, our cities will change. Flying vehicles will revolutionize urban traffic for millions of people.
About the Author
Allison Crady is a Marketing Specialist for a commercial construction conglomerate, including CDF Distributors and Fast Partitions. She spends most of her time researching and writing about industry topics including innovative construction, urban trends, and city planning. She can be reached via email at [email protected].