JUST when you were getting used to the concept of autonomous vehicles, a company has decided to kick things up a notch.
To combat traffic problems across the globe as a result of increasing urbanisation in megacities, Airbus has wild plan.
“Techies in Silicon Valley invent hi-tech products every day. However, they still do not have a solution for one of their biggest problems: rush hour,” Airbus wrote on its website.
“In response, Airbus Group experts are looking skywards to develop radical concepts that will relieve urban congestion.”
The aircraft manufacturer said it had experts pursuing a project, known as vahana, to develop autonomous flying vehicles.
Project executive Rodin Lyasoff said the company hopes to test the first vehicle prototype by the end of 2017.
“Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there,” he said.
“[Adding sense-and-avoid technology is] one of the bigger challenges we aim to resolve as early as possible.”
Mr Lyasoff said he believes the system would be suited to a flying taxi model, which would operate similarly to car-sharing applications booked using smartphones.
“We believe that global demand for this category of aircraft can support fleets of millions of vehicles worldwide,”
“In as little as 10 years, we could have products on the market that revolutionise urban travel for millions of people.”
Airbus chief executive Tom Enders said a network of flying taxis might sound like science fiction, but he strongly believed the vision was already taking shape.
“I’m no big fan of Star Wars, but it’s not crazy to imagine that one day our big cities will have flying cars making their way along roads in the sky,” he said.
“In a not too distant future, we’ll use our smartphones to book a fully automated flying taxi that will land outside our front door — without any pilot.”
By Matthew Dunn