Right now the automobile industry is focused on developing self-driving cars with the belief that autonomous vehicles are the way of the future, and we suppose that it is possible that they are right. However Airbus has loftier (literally) plans as they have announced a program called the CityAirbus that aims to put self-driving taxis in the sky one day.
According to Airbus, this is to address the issue of traffic problems which not only wastes time, but also money. “According to a study, these huge back-ups in Sao Paulo cost the Brazilian economy at least 31 billion USD a year; another study found that Londoners lose the equivalent of 35 working days per year idling in traffic. The situation is even worse in cities such as Mumbai, Manila, or Tokyo.”
This is where CityAirbus comes in, and where users can flag a sky taxi via an app, almost like Uber, head to a nearby helipad, and get picked up along with other passengers, with the cost of each ride said to be around the price of a regular taxi ride. The company states that they will initially use a human pilot, but envisions it to be fully autonomous later on.
However there are challenges with this project, such as regulatory restraints, as well as certain technological hurdles such as sense-and-avoid technology, which has only recently made its way to cars. There is no timeline for when Airbus plans to make CityAirbus a reality, but they are planning on testing an all-electric autonomous helicopter dubbed Project Vahana by the end of 2017.