Airbus thinks it has a solution to traffic jams: fly above them.
The European aircraft maker is planning to test a prototype of a self-piloted, single-seat “flying taxi” as early as end the end of this year, the company’s chief executive says. Airbus, builder of the world’s largest passenger jet, is better known for building hulking aircraft that can travel more than 14,000 km (8,700 miles) in a single flight.
So why Airbus thinking so small?
“One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground,” Airbus’s chief executive Tom Enders said at a tech conference in Munich yesterday, Reuters reported, adding that while this was an experiment, the company is taking it ”very seriously.”
Airlines have lost their taste for expensive-to-operate behemoths, so Airbus appears to be branching out into convenient transportation options for urban centers.
The new prototype will have multiple propellers take off vertically and seat a single passenger, though final models could fit more. Enders said if lots of residents hail the “air taxi,” it could save governments money on bridges, roads, and other pieces of expensive infrastructure. Airbus wants customers to be able to book a seat on the aircraft through an app, similar to other ride-sharing programs.
Speaking of which, Uber is also reportedly exploring self-flying aircraft.