Never far away from the headlines, transport company Uber have unveiled their plans for the future of taxis at the CES 2018 exhibition in Las Vegas.
By 2020 the company says we will be making our journeys in battery powered vertical take off and landing (VTOL) pods – with no driver.
Perhaps it’s a way of avoiding the employee disputes it has landed itself in almost weekly as it fights court cases to avoid having to class its drivers as ’employees’ or the company name being mentioned when some of the drivers are linked to crimes but the company say that in the skies above cities including Dallas, Dubai and Los Angeles we could soon be hailing our own flying pod.
It’s not just pie in the sky talk either: big players in the technology and aviation industry are trying to work out just how this kind of system would work. Included in these plans is Bell Helicopter, a defence contractor best known for military vehicles who used the event to show off its concept flying taxi.
An egg-shaped pod which would be able to seat four seats, room for luggage in the back and large windows to enjoy the view of all the traffic jams you have cunningly avoided would be slung below rotors of the form you would usually see on your common or garden helicopter.
Bell wants to work alongside Uber to create the next step in hireable transportation by flying these pods in the skies above us at 150 miles an hour, allowing you to get to the airport in just a few minutes giving you much longer to spend in the queue for security or the duty free shops or – for those early flights – longer in bed. It will certainly have appeal for people who currently spend much of their time travelling during peak hours but the company say they want the rides in the skies to be priced similarly to journeys on the ground.
Whilst flying cars always featured in projections about the future they tended to be driven and the flying feature was in addition to the road usability. But technology has changed what we now look to as possible even from our childhood imaginations particularly with GPS and cloud based technology.But there are still huge hurdles to counter before we hail our pod to the airport, namely those surrounding safety. Air traffic control is naturally tightly regulated and already drones are causing headaches for the regulators. Any automated vehicle in the sky, particularly one which will have the potential to be hacked as teenagers in bedrooms across the world have demonstrated is possible, will be a target for criminals and terrorists just as driverless cars will be.The EU is already organising meetings in Brussels discussing the regulation of driverless cars on the roads. It may not be long before that is already out of date but the technology once again is developing much quicker than the bureaucracy and the environmental lobby may well be pleased at the reduction in use of internal combustion engines, although the transport unions will not be.