Airbus’ driverless flying taxi has completed its first test flight.
The electric aircraft codenamed Vahana flew to a modest height of just 16 feet where it hovered for just under a minute.
While it’s a small step, it is the first of what will be a series of increasingly gruelling test flights designed to ascertain if self-flying taxis could truly replace the cabs we catch on the ground.
With the world’s current road infrastructure starting to feel the sheer pressure of our population bearing down on it, aircraft manufacturers (and even taxi companies) have started looking to the skies to find alternatives for getting us from A to B.
The result of this is the self-driving flying taxi.
How does a flying taxi work?
In Airbus’ case it’s a small, single person aircraft that’s powered by eight electric motors and can travel over short distances completely by itself.
By using electric motors you create an ecosystem that from the outset has a low carbon footprint. It also means batteries can be charged and replaced at ease.
So how do you order a flying taxt? In much the same way that you order an Uber. You’ll put in the destination you want and the app will assign you to an available aircraft. You then head to the nearest location where they can take off and land and get in.
Vahana is completely pilotless so it’ll take off, fly to its destination and land all by itself. It actually does this in much the same way that most self-driving cars do, using a vast array of sensors built into the aircraft along with advanced satellite navigation.
Once airborne it has a range of around 62-miles so could easily take you from one end of a city to the other.
How much will a flying taxi cost?
A lot cheaper than you might think. Airbus has estimated that it wants to charge people around £1-2 per mile. That’s around the same as most normal taxi firms now and would remove the belief that taking a flying taxi is in some way a ‘luxury’ option.
When can I start using a flying taxi?
NASA and Uber are currently working together to create an invisible traffic system that can exist over our cities and high-speed tests are planned in Los Angeles for 2020.
Dubai and Fort Worth will also play host to some of the first flying taxi test flights with manned tests expected just a few years after that. So while you still have some time to wait, it’s probably less than you were expecting.