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Driverless flying taxis may be in our future

Olivia Goldhill
By Olivia Goldhill

Investigative reporter

A Chinese firm plans to test driverless flying vehicles in Nevada, in the hopes that autonomous aerial taxis are the future.

The EHang 184, which was unveiled at this year’s Consumer Electronic show in Las Vegas, will conduct some testing in Nevada, according to Las Vegas Review-Journal. And while the taxis aren’t carrying passengers anytime soon, that’s the plan.

“I personally look forward to the day when drone taxis are part of Nevada’s transportation system,” Tom Wilczek, Aerospace and Defense Industry Specialist for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GEOD), said in a statement.

The government will work with the EHang, the Guangzhou-based “unmanned aerial vehicle” company behind the product, through the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), in the hopes of helping EHang meet the criteria necessary for Federal Aviation Administration approval.

According to the company, someday passengers in EHang’s drone-powered helicopter  will get to their destination by entering it into the system’s smartphone app—though only passengers weighing less than 220 pounds will be able to take off. The model presented at this year’s CES also only had enough battery power for a 20 minute flight, which will take you around 50 miles, the company says.

EHang said it expects to being testing their drones later this year. But, as The Guardian points out, given that driverless cars aren’t expected to be widely available for at least a decade, it’s unlikely you’ll be hopping in a driverless drone to work any time soon.

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