This month, both Rolls Royce and Aston Martin have unveiled their flying taxis, seemingly ready to take to the skies within the next two to five years. Now, this feels a little bit “Back to the Future”… and could transform the taxi and chauffeur industry, but also simply the way we live our lives.
Driving… in the sky
Congestion, pollution, never-ending roadworks and potholes… professional drivers have to suffer these on a daily basis. The driving experience itself has changed tremendously over the past few decades: more and more cars are automatic, making the satisfaction of changing gears and mastering the art of finding that precise point on the clutch, getting the engine roaring and tyres screeching, a thing of the past. The noises and smells associated to vehicles are starting to go, too… engines are being replaced by battery cells: no more oil, petrol, or tinkering with nuts and bolts. And with the latest electric or hybrid vehicles emitting wheezing or gliding noises, no more starter motor clicking or exhaust backfiring… One could argue that this is the end of an era.
But what if the whole “driving on the road” experience was to disappear altogether? What if your driver’s licence was to be converted into a pilot one? Rolls Royce and Aston Martin are the latest of a number of companies that have been working on flying objects destined to ease congestion on the road, and this feels like the future is coming. Soon.
Rolls Royce: EVTOL hybrid flying taxi
Unveiled at the Farnborough Airshow earlier this month, the “EVTOL” (Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing ) project is certainly impressive: this hybrid vehicle is extremely quiet and could transport four to five passengers at speeds of 250mph for up to 500 miles without being recharged. Using gas turbine technology to power an electric battery, EVTOL produces fewer emissions than petrol and diesel cars. And thanks to its wings that rotate to 90 degrees, the Rolls-Royce flying taxi can take off or land vertically – making it potentially usable even in crowded urban areas.
The company announced that EVTOL could take to the skies as soon as the early 2020s, and that, as well as a taxi, it could also be deployed for personal, cargo and military use.
Aston Martin’s Volante Vision
Also revealed at the Farnborough Airshow, and looking straight out of a sci-fi movie, Aston Martin’s design is certainly striking. Powered by a hybrid-electric engine with autonomous technology built into its systems, the Volante Vision can accommodate three people on board, and like Rolls-Royce EVTOL, is able to take off and land vertically, thanks to a horizontally mounted turbo-prop at the back and two pairs of propellers at the front – attached to the Y-wing at the front. The Volante Vision is built with autonomous navigation, and information will project onto the all-glass cockpit canopy.
These may seem very futuristic and will probably prove rather costly to acquire. But what a way to travel, and deliver passengers! Of course, with autonomous designs, one can ask the question about the future of professional drivers. But if this was to become the means of transport for the masses, one can safely assume that only a happy few would be able to purchase their own flying vehicle, while most of us would enjoy them only when booking a taxi or ordering a “car” to go somewhere.
And of course, the next question will be: won’t congestion on the roads be replaced by overcrowded airspace? Now, a number of companies have been working on flying taxi concepts – including Uber, who announced in May this year that their “Uber Elevate” concept may be ready by 2023, in a bid to ease congestion on the roads. So the battle of the skies may start very soon; it could transform the industry, and beyond that the way we live our lives, commute and travel fundamentally.