Driverless Flying Cars? In 2017?
You have probably been waiting for the driverless cars to hit your city, after you heard the news about their debut in select cities across the world. Forget driverless cars, you could soon be taking a driverless plane to your office.
From James Bond novels to the Jetsons, if we have been taught one thing by futuristic entertainment, then it is to expect the future to have flying cars. Some early 19th century novels, even predicted that the people in the 80s and the 90s will be flying in their own personal cars, beating the ground traffic. It’s 2017. Forget flying cars, we have still not perfected the hoverboard from Back to the Future. If you feel that we are living in the boring version of the future we had all imagined, well, 2017 might just be the year when everything changes.
We are not sure about the hoverboard, but flying cars are definitely going to be the thing. What’s more, they are all going to be driverless. That’s a double home run right there.
Like with anything that has a lot of bling attached to it these days, (driverless cars, Hyperloop track, etc.) the driverless flying cars too have found a launchpad in Dubai. The Chinese company, Ehang, has already created a driverless flying taxi that is set to mark Dubai’s skies as its own later this year. In fact, the car, known as Ehang 184, has already been tested, and has proved itself to be a viable mode of transportation.
Ehang 184 has the capacity to carry one person. As it does not have a driver, it comes with a touchscreen that is mounted on the dashboard, which can be used by the passengers to select their destinations. The car features 8 propellers, which are powerful enough to handle the vehicle if one of them malfunctions. There are multiple standby systems designed for emergencies. This is important because any failure of systems can mean a free fall to death. Ehang is also mulling the option of fitting their car with a parachute as an added security measure.
The flying car can rise and drop vertically at speeds of 6 meters per second, and fly at a maximum speed of 160kmph. However, the government of Dubai is implementing a speed cap of 100kmph on such flying taxis. The battery –powered vehicle can fly at 100kmph for up to 30 minutes, or cover 50kms on a single charge. It is designed to work in almost all weathers, except during thunderstorms. Although the car is autonomous, its control center is not onboard. It will be controlled from a command center on the ground, which will interact with all the flying taxis using the 4G technology provided by Etisalat.
Ehang is not even the only player in this space. The ride-sharing company, Uber has signed deals with multiple players in this market – Embraer, Bell Helicopter, Aurora Flight Sciences, Pipistrel, and Mooney – to release flying cars in US cities.
Whenever Dubai finds an opportunity to be the first at something, especially when it’s related to technology, it makes sure that things move at a rapid pace. The same is not true in the US. Any new technology like a flying car has to pass the stringent tests at FAA, which is not exactly an agile or nimble organization. So, it could be as late as 2020 before we see the first flying car in the US.
So, yes, flying cars are finally going to be a reality pretty soon. And we will finally get to live in a future that humanity had been waiting for at least 5 generations.