Fricken’ Flying Taxis: The Future of Travel is Closer Than You Think
When you hear the words flying taxis, you might think I’m talking about the movie Back to the Future starring Michael J. Fox. Yes, it is a great movie, but no, I am actually referring to the present. Right now, in the year 2021, flying taxis are a real thing and will only become more prevalent in the coming years.
They come as a solution to both the congestion and pollution caused by motor vehicles. As the Co-Founder of Flow Genome Project Steven Kotler highlights in his Planet Home talk, 30% of the United State’s pollution comes from cars, trucks, and ships, so flying electric taxis might be a good way to reduce this, should they take hold.
A good way to assess just how close we are to flying taxis being as common as regular old taxis or ubers is to look at some of the most promising companies attempting to bring their concepts to the market right now.
I think I can confidently say that none of you reading this enjoy sitting in traffic. The vast majority of you probably also want a greener, cleaner planet. So it comes as no surprise that the market for solutions that help alleviate both issues, namely traffic and pollution, have a plethora of players. Some flying taxi companies are offshoots of car manufacturers while others are standalone startups. Although looking at the mix of companies can be dizzying at times, the north star guiding them all in one way or another is the incredible market opportunity. According to a report by Morgan Stanley, the autonomous urban aircraft market may be worth $1.5 trillion by 2040. Now that’s a lot of mullah 💰!
One example of a big company developing flying taxis is Airbus. Typically known for their airplanes, they are in the process of developing not one, but two flying taxi vehicles, more coloquially known as electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles, or eVTOL for short.
Their main offering, dubbed the CityAirbus, is an all-electric, four-seater copter with remotely piloted electric vertical take-off and landing. In 2019 it conducted its first takeoff flight test and has continued to do more since then, with the goal of bringing it to the public as soon as possible. As it stands currently, it has the ability to carry four passengers up to 60 miles at 75 miles per hour. Flying in the sky sure beats traffic on your way to work!
Airbus is also developing a single-seater version called Vahana. In a similar fashion to its 4-seater counterpart, the main technological benefits will be all-electric propulsion and autonomous flight.
Uber…….. Flying Taxi?
We’re all quite familiar with Uber vehicles on roads, but what about Ubers in the sky? In only a few years time, much like with the plethora of other eVTOLs, that might be the case. Uber had been working on developing a flying taxi with their Uber Elevate team since 2016, however this offshoot of their business was acquired by Joby Aviation in 2020. Together, they plan to offer a seamless integration of their products by the year 2023. This should be quite exciting after hearing more about Joby’s product.
Joby has been in the flying taxi game for 10 years and counting, so they have a lot of experience iterating their product. Their zero emissions aircraft, which can transport four passengers and a pilot, can fly up to 150 miles on a single charge and can cruise at 200 mph. An example trip would be taking a taxi flight from LAX to Newport Beach, CA. Typically, using a car and driving this route takes an hour and fifteen minutes, while traveling over forty-five miles of road. Their flying taxi concept would take fifteen minutes and travers thirty-five miles. Besides all of the benefits mentioned above, you’ll be travelling in the sleek ride pictured below.
Ready for Takeoff?
As it stands today, there are more than a dozen companies in the flying taxi, eVTOL space! There is truly an explosion of innovation in this area, and many are backed by multinational corporations like Toyota and Hyundai. With that being said, most projections are showing that we’ll most likely need to wait until 2040 until they hit the mass market, which is still a long way off. One silver lining is that an urban air mobility (UAM) study, by Frost & Sullivan, sees air taxis beginning in 2022 in Dubai and expanding to other countries like New Zealand and Brazil. So, even if flying taxis aren’t available where you’re living, you might be able to catch a ride on your next vacation trip. With their planet-friendly benefits and ability to avoid soul-sucking traffic, will you be flying in an electric taxi when they become available?