Flying taxis are attracting a lot of attention at the moment. Archer’s unveiling of its ‘Maker’ version is just one of many ‘launches.’ Investment is flooding in, the hype is swelling, and all seems great in the world of no longer futuristic flying taxis.
And the dream is the same as for the car. Ultimately, autonomous flying taxis will be in operation worldwide, leaving the autonomous cars to sweep calmly and quickly through the almost deserted streets below. In fact, given that flying taxis will be in use around cities and the obvious place to land is on a roof, why, asks the BBC, would you want to set foot on the ground again?
Yet there is already a feeling of deja vu emerging.
We were talking about autonomous cars some years ago and seriously about five years ago. The hype then was similar to that around flying taxis now. Then we started realising that it really wouldn’t be as easy as the early hoopla suggested.
There were – and still are – the safety issues to iron out, and regulators, standards bodies and the automotive industry are all on the case. And it is going frustratingly slowly.
Then we realised that it would not be the autonomous car that would delay its launch but everything that went on around it.
A trip across town in a taxi with a slightly mad driver is one thing. A trip across town in a car whose primary driver (if you will pardon that one) is safety is quite another.
Flying taxis might be different when it comes to safety and congestion, but both the numbers and risk factors are also on a different scale. Cars contain two people on average, so that a bad collision would involve under ten, say. A collision in the skies, where an airliner is involved, could involve hundreds in the air and who knows how many on the ground.
Clearly, when it comes to flying taxis or flying anything, the most experienced safety experts are on the case. But we have already seen the disruption that drones can cause around an airport, essentially closing it for days. And if you can hack a Tesla (with or without a drone), then you can bet you can hack flying taxis, with potentially disastrous results.
Right now, the VC world is getting thoroughly over-excited about flying taxis. Let us hope that we don’t end up with the same disappointment with these exciting futuristic hybrids as we are still experiencing with autonomous cars.