When the concepts of sharing and unmanned driving are bringing unprecedented technological competitions to the automotive industry, many car manufacturers have quietly moved their battlefield to the development of aircraft projects.
text: T Chan
見工、見岳母、見情人，遇上交通擠塞怎麼辦？很簡單的，“ 飛的”前往便可以了。誠然，此時此刻，縱使閣下乘坐那台的士是由法拉利改裝，0-100公里不用等超過3秒，但只要在路面上，總不可能避開修路公程、魯莽司機、交通系統故障等而導致的堵塞，亦不難聽到狂躁司機口中自言自語地抱怨著：要準時到達目的地，除非懂得飛上天！是的，真的感謝這世上終於有人想得出、更做得到“ 飛天的士”的概念，以便關懷體貼的愛妻及明白事理的岳母不用因為筆者遲到兩分鐘而懷疑出現交通意外。
What should you do while encountering traffic congestion? Currently, the best choice must be taking a taxi. However, even if the taxi you are riding is modified by Ferrari, which accelerates from 0-100 km/h in less than 3 seconds, it is impossible to avoid the blockage caused by road repairs, careless drivers and traffic system failures as long as it is on the road. We should really appreciate the fact that someone finally comes out of the concept of “flying taxi”.
Vahana, an unmanned air taxi project developed by Airbus, was proposed in 2016 and officially announced the successful first flight with a duration of 53 seconds in June this year. Airbus hopes that Vahana’s speed will reach 4 times that of ground transportation equipment with cheaper cost than taking a car or train. The project leader refers to the successful flight test of Vahana as a milestone of global air traffic in cities. Many enterprises are developing air helicopters to serve customers that is more cost-effective and easier to maintain. At the same time, many traditional automobile manufacturers and shared transportation platforms have also cooperated with the enterprises to demonstrate the feasibility of cooperative projects.
Uber, who has been the pioneer of technological development, is working with NASA to promote the plan called Uber Elevate. It is expected that the pilot air taxi UberAIR will launch in 2020. Los Angeles and Dubai will be the first to conduct the flight tests. The commuting time in San Francisco Bay Area reduces from 2 hours to 15 minutes. In India, from Gurgaon to the capital New Delhi, commuting time is changed from 90 minutes to 6 minutes. With the goals of operating demonstrator flights starting in 2020, the air taxi will become mature in 2028 as the Olympics is going to be held in Los Angeles.
Rolls-Royce unveiled a hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft named EVTOL, which is capable of carrying 4 to 5 people at a speed of about 400 km/h. Rolls-Royce will look for partners to jointly develop projects and expects that the product will be realized in the early 2020s. The transportation industry has set its sights on flying air vehicles, including Uber, Airbus and even car startups which have launched the product plan of flying taxi in the past year or two. The Rolls-Royce plan is similar to the schedule of other peers. As a hybrid electric vehicle, EVTOL is not the most friendly to the environment. Rolls-Royce mentions that they can make direct use of existing infrastructure such as a heliport.