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Airbus Flying Taxi Is Commute of the Future

So you think self-driving cabs are cool? Soon enough, you'll be able to forget about ride hailing apps for autonomous vehicles on the ground and instead commute in small autonomous aircraft, flying over those suckers stuck in rush hour traffic.

That would be thanks in part to Airbus, yes, the old-fashioned airplane maker, and its project Vahana.

Credit: Airbus

(Image credit: Airbus)



Airbus suggests that commuter traffic could be exponentially more horrendous in cities 2030, when 60 percent of the world is expected to live in them as opposed to about 10 percent of the population now. To alleviate the problem, the company is developing vehicles that can carry single passengers, groups of commuters or cargo.

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The Airbus aircraft would be equipped with sense-and-avoid technology like self-driving cars are, plus it would be able to take off and land vertically like a helicopter, so there would be no need to build or clear a stretch of runway.

The company envisions customers booking flights Uber-style, and hopes to support fleets of millions of vehicles, not competing with but serving current transportation systems and shipping companies, according to its website. Flight tests are expected to start at the end of next year.

And this doesn't seem like just a pie-in-the-sky project, judging from the number of job ads posted on Airbus's A3 arm in Silicon Valley.

For those willing to share their rides, Airbus is working on a separate CityAirbus vehicle developed by its Airbus Helicopters division.

Airbus didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but looking ahead, we can imagine traffic on the ground clearing up, but a lot more traffic in the skies and hovering around city helipads in the next couple of decades.

It's unclear exactly when we'll see these aircraft in our skies, and how much it will cost to commute in one of them, but for now, those with the money will have to settle for a regular helicopter booked via mobile app using a service like Blade, which can fly over the maddening weekend traffic from New York to the Hamptons.