The future of mobility: Flying cars the answer to traffic woes

November 08, 2017 16:05
A drone taxi is displayed at the Gitex 2017 exhibition at the Dubai World Trade Center. Photo: AFP-JIJI

Traffic congestion is one of the major problems in almost all cities. According to a report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, in 2015, Americans spent 48 minutes on average for a 20-minute drive due to traffic congestion. Looking back 35 years, in 1982, the delay on the road was 18 hours a year. It doubled to 42 hours in 2014.

It has inspired scientific and technological innovation which may cause major shifts in our lives and cultures. For example, flying cars are considered as a possible solution.

The Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 will apply various future technologies, the most fascinating being a flying car. A Japanese company aims to launch the world’s first self-driven one-seat self-driving taxis to cope with traffic when 920,000 foreigners arrive for the Games.

It is expected to be light, easy to operate without the need of a driving license and enables one to avoid traffic congestion during the Olympic Games. The price of this flying car is 5 million yen (HK$350,000). It can be used in the air and on land, with three tires for ground travel, and propellers for flying. It can fly at 10 to 20 meters high, the highest speed on the ground and in the air is 150 km per hour.

In Munich four young university graduates founded an aviation startup in 2015 to develop flying cars. The electric flying taxi is only 25 kg, can execute vertical take-off and landing, travels up to 300 km per hour, and is claimed to generate noise quieter than a motorcycle. In 2017, after a successful test of a prototype with two seats, the company will develop a five-seat jet. Tencent and the founders of Twitter are among its new investors. The pilotless vehicles are expected to be launched officially by 2025.

Dubai is also developing flying cars. During the Gulf Information Technology Exhibition in September 2017, a flying taxi was exhibited. The local regulatory body believes that by 2022, technology and regulations will be mature enough to enable the new invention to be launched in the market by then. Each flying car will be priced well over US$200,000 (about HK$2 million). It is surely a luxurious item.

Will flying cars be seen everywhere in the near future? Let us wait and see. I hope that the policy address will be able to encourage young people and industries to adopt innovative technologies, so that we can improve the environment and promote the economy.

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Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences; and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong