Autonomous vehicles, those driverless inventions of the future, are already undergoing testing in all corners of the world. Whether you want to fly above the city or read a book while on the road, manufacturers worldwide are coming up with vehicles that surpass the imagination. And yes, very soon you will be able to hail a sky taxi.
Automakers like Tesla, Ford, Fiat, Chrysler, Volkswagon, and Bakulin Motors, along with a number of technology firms, are creating a market for self-driving vehicles expected to surpass $2 trillion by the year 2030. They are currently testing land and air cabs that are able to self-learn and monitor road situations in real-time.
Currently, the world’s stock of land vehicles is estimated to be more than a billion units, about one for every seven individuals. More than half of the world’s population lives in big cities that are close to reaching their level of saturation. Traffic jams, parking availability and increase in urban pollution produce huge economic losses, but mainly affect people’s quality of life. Inventors and engineers are looking for a solution, and it seems they have found it in the skies.
Dubai will be the first city to offer a public sky taxi service. For the task, German company Daimler AG has built the Volocopter X2, a self-driven, 18-rotor, two-seat helicopter. The model is completely autonomous, with vertical takeoff and landing. More than that, it runs on batteries, so it’s emission-free and produces a very low noise level. Volocopter X2 will provide great comfort and aerodynamic design.
Customers will be able to set pick-up and destination points by phone. However, due to current regulations, these sky taxis will be driven by someone with a private pilot’s license. Once regulations are updated, passengers will just need to board the vessel and enjoy the scenery on the way to their destination.
In China, Ehang is developing its single-seat model, the Ehang UAV 184, based on its vast experience with unmanned professional drones. The vehicle is 3.9 feet high, weighs 440 pounds and has eight propellers. It will be able to carry a passenger for more than 23 minutes, at 60 miles per hour. Each passenger will be able to select his or her destination on a touchscreen and make trips up to 31 miles. Its outward appearance is stark, but functional. Ehang’s goal is providing economic transportation for monitoring engineering operations, but the alternative of self-driven sky taxis for Beijing is now within reach.
Major auto manufacturers are also developing self-driving cars. Ford Fusion already offers self-driving Uber vehicles with laser technology, cameras and sensors. Fiat, Chrysler and Google, through Waymo, are already offering trial trips on self-driving vehicles in Phoenix, Arizona.
Tesla Motors has a driverless prototype in development. European giant Volkswagen currently has its Audi A8 sedan on the road. In this car, drivers can take their hands off the wheel and let the vehicle drive by itself. Russia is planning to introduce the Matryoshka, Bakulin Motors’ self-driving vehicle very soon in the fall of 2017. And Argentinean Inipop is developing a prototype for public transportation. Businesses that want to shape the future of transportation are everywhere.
Experts in artificial intelligence deem that “total” automation of transportation may be reached in 5-10 years. Although, changing regulations and convincing consumers to take advantage of this technology may take longer. But it’s still entirely possible that in the near future, we’ll be seeing self-driving vehicles in the sky, while driverless cars tackle the highways. ■