If the latest reports by top analysts around the world are to be believed, there could be more than one billion air taxi flights globally by 2030. While air taxis start-ups are set to start testing in places like Singapore, Dubai and Los Angeles within the next year, a decade from now there could be thousands of these electric airborne taxis transporting passengers to-and-fro above major UK cities.
Although the Boston Consulting Group were first to predict this astounding number of 1 billion+ air taxis flights globally by the end of 2030, they are not the only analysts to think that something similar will indeed happen in the next 10 to 20 years.
According to a prediction by Morgan Stanley, the air taxi market could be worth about €1.35tr (that’s roughly £1.2tr) by the year 2040, which is actually a much more conservative figure than the Boston Consulting Group’s forecast of a $2tr industry by 2030.
While the differences between the two predictions are significant, they both point towards one assured fact; air taxies will almost certainly become a common sight above some of the world’s major cities before too long.
The solution to traffic congestion?
Many believe that the growing car population can only be sustainable in the future by introducing the air taxi in highly congested cities such Mumbai, which tops the chart on Forbes’s list of cities with the worst traffic, or Ireland’s capital city of Dublin, where people spend an average of 45% more time on the road than they should have to, solely because of congestion.
The current taxi industry and what it would mean for them
At this point, it’s quite hard to predict what this will do to the taxi industry in the UK, but it’s fair to say that flying taxis represent a revolutionary overhaul of the ‘hire and reward’ business, and have the potential to erode a taxi driver’s turnover – or grow it, if they jump on the airborne taxi bandwagon themselves.
Of course, one can’t imagine the flying wonders will be very affordable for your average taxi driver to invest in initially, and it’s fair to assume that the taxi insurance on a flying vehicle will likely be a shocker as well!
As pointed out by the taxi insurance comparison service, Quotezone, taxi owners in the UK already pay quite a bit more to insure their taxicab than the driver of a regular car would pay, but insuring an airborne taxi is likely to be truly eyewatering – at least until these vehicles become cheap and ubiquitous.
Are there problems to be solved here?
It’s fair to say that airborne taxis still have a lot of obstacles to overcome before they become a common sight above UK cities. Here are three, for starters.
The cost factor
This is the first and arguably the biggest issue right now, because electric cars that fly are not going to be cheap to buy or rent. So, unless more affordable versions of the current-gen air taxis flying in limited numbers above Dubai and Los Angeles are introduced, it will not be feasible.
Fortunately, Bosch presents a solution to this problem as they have developed a much cheaper technology than the ones currently used in commercial planes. It can be used to guide these air taxis through an AI-powered control unit, known as Micro Electro Mechanical Systems, or MEMS. It’s fitted with sensors and aims to teach the air-cab to fly on its own.
Flying or driving?
Unless these taxis are launched as fully automatic, self-driving electric taxis of the future, they will need actual pilots to fly them around. Flying is not as accessible as driving, and flying at low altitudes will probably require more skills than usual. Will it be feasible to hire, train and pay all of the pilots the world is going to need if these airborne taxicabs are to become an everyday sight?
What about accidents?
Accidents are inevitable, be it up there or down here, but there’s a huge difference between a car crash and a plane crash of course. An air taxi losing control and colliding with another in a busy airway would likely lead to a 100% fatality rate. Not to mention, such a crash would mean that the vehicle will plummet to the ground or a rooftop, leading to further property damage and possible loss of life.
These are significant problems the industry will need to overcome, but given the current traffic congestions in many of the world’s major cities, as well as the tremendous profits the flying taxi start-ups could make, the air taxi is almost certainly on its way.
It looks like Hanna-Barbera really was onto something with The Jetsons in the 1960s, as this is precisely the kind of scenario the cartoon predicted would happen 100 years later in 2062!