LAS VEGAS — Federal regulators haven’t even figured out a satisfactory solution yet for dealing with drones, and here come the flying cars.
On one hand, what a great idea. Not only are the flying cars and taxis showcased at this year’s CES show in Las Vegas the ultimate in cool, but they’re also practical in that they offer an alternative for high-traffic, heavy-on-the-commuting-headache areas.
On the other?
They’re an environmentalist’s worst nightmare. Radical greens don’t even like looking out their windows at power lines. Can you imagine their reaction to flying cars?
They’re one potentially horrific accident waiting to happen — and with that, one potentially horrible public relations disaster waiting to spring.
They’re quite possibly privacy monsters, secret surveillance nightmares, individual rights’ intruders.
And yet: They’re coming. Soon.
Bell Nexus has a hybrid-electric propulsion aircraft that appears a cross between a helicopter and streamlined van, upon which are attached several tilting fan ducts that allow for vertical takeoffs and landings. Uber, under an experimental certificate, is going to introduce the craft into three cities — Los Angeles, Dallas and a soon-to-be-announced location — as a flying taxi in 2020. The test markets will each receive up to a dozen of the taxis, with plans to expand that number to around 50 by 2023, and to hundreds within the next few years.
It won’t be long before the experiment goes full-throttle commercial.
As the technology advances, pilots-slash-drivers will become optional, too.
Of course, there are those who think the whole idea of flying cars is all concept, never commercial. But with dozens of companies, from Boeing to Airbus to Google’s Kitty Hawk, all working furiously to develop and mass market their own versions of the Uber-Bell flying car product, the voices of the naysayers seem a whisper in the wild clamor of Big Tech creations.
Yes, indeed, the Jetsons have definitely launched from cartoon screen to real-world reality.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.
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