Flying car concepts are looking increasingly drone-like these days, with multiple small rotors, electric propulsion and vertical take-off abilities. Take the eHang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle being developed in China, the Kitty Hawk all-electric aircraft backed by Google founder Larry Page, which is little more than a quadcopter with a seat, the AirQuadOne designed by UK consortium Neva Aerospace, or Lilium Aviation’s Jet.
The attraction is obvious. Electric-powered drones are more compact, maneuverable, and environmentally friendly, making them suitable for urban environments.
Urban Mobility Made Easy
Most of these vehicles are not quite the same as those pure flying machines proposed by MIT engineers. But a recent Airbus concept builds on the same principle that the future of urban mobility is vehicles that can both fly and drive. Its Pop.Up design is a two-passenger pod that can either be clipped to a set of wheels or hang under a quadcopter.
Importantly, they envisage their creation being autonomous in both flight and driving modes. And they’re not the only ones who think the future of flying cars is driverless.
Ready To Make This Reality
Uber has been one of the first to jump right into this new concept. They have committed to developing a network of autonomous air taxis within a decade. Allowing their cars to transport people to locations of short distances.
Dubai has actually announced that this spring, it would launch a pilotless passenger drone service as early as next month (July).
A team of researchers developed multi-robot path planning algorithms that were able to control eight drones as they flew and drove around their mock up city, while also making sure they didn’t crash into each other and avoided no-fly zones.
“This work provides an algorithmic solution for large-scale, mixed-mode transportation and shows its applicability to real-world problems,” Jingjin Yu, a computer science professor at Rutgers University who was not involved in the research, told MIT News.
Finally, there has already been significant progress in developing technology and regulations needed to integrate autonomous drones into our airspace that future driverless flying cars can most likely piggyback off of.
Two of the most developed flying car designs from Terrafugia and AeroMobil are cars with folding wings that need an airstrip to take off.
Safety requirements will inevitably be more stringent, but adding more predictable and controllable autonomous drones to the skies is likely to be more attractive to regulators than trying to license and police thousands of new amateur pilots.