I think we can all agree that one of the most disappointing things about our current technological era is the fact that we don’t have flying cars yet. Tiny computers capable of instant worldwide communication are neat and all, but if science fiction has promised us anything over the decades, it’s flying cars. Between drone technology and jetpacks, it’s clear that aerospace technology is getting smaller and smaller every year. What’s holding back the flying car?
For one thing, infrastructure. Cities aren’t yet designed with aerial vehicles in mind. Aside from that massive, costly hurdle, flying car technology actually seems just around the corner. At this year’s Digital Life Design conference in Munich, Airbus CEO Tom Enders told attendees that his company is developing a prototype ready to be tested by the end of 2017. To meet this lofty goal, Airbus has launched an entire division, Urban Air Mobility, devoted to the research and development of flying car technology. Their ultimate goal is the development of mobile app-hailed flying car systems similar to car sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. Naturally, the cars are being designed to be autonomous. We’re all going to be unemployed soon due to robots, remember?
Enders told the crowd that this new segment of Airbus’ research is a natural progression on the timeline of human travel:
One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground. We are in an experimentation phase, and we take this development very seriously. If we ignore these developments, we will be pushed out of important segments of the business.
Enders also stated that he believes within just a few decades Airbus could have massive autonomous electric air vehicles capable of shuttling dozens of passengers and which could become integral parts of urban infrastructure:
Given that the wildly popular car sharing service Uber is already reportedly working on autonomous flying vehicles, it seems more and more likely that future generations will never know the joys of carefree hours spent behind the wheel on open country roads – much less driving at all. Oh well, such is the course of history and “progress.” After all, I never learned how to churn butter or use an abacus, and I’m doing just fine. Except for when I want butter…