Many ‘Dreams’ Have Come True, But Not Flying Taxis
What did a ‘futuristic’ city in your childhood cartoons look like? Skyscrapers, robots, video calls, autonomous cars, cordless phones, and flying taxis: these would be common descriptions of ‘future’ in many cartoons or movies. (Although largely it depends on which generation you are in!)
In the 21st Century, most of the things mentioned above have become real. More stylish skyscrapers exist in today’s cities. We can video call our family and friends with almost no fee on our smart phones. Driverless cars are hitting the road in some part of the world. Robots are serving food in some restaurants. Our life has become quite ‘futuristic.’ However, flying taxis are not ready to take off yet. Is it because we are happy with the existing transportation and don’t need them?
Time Is Money ー Flying Taxis Can Save Time
When caught by a traffic jam, how many times have you thought, “Oh, I wish I could fly my car and skip all these cars before me”? A traffic jam is not only irritating but also wastes a lot of time. According to a research by INRIX, Londoners lose 227 hours annually stuck in traffic, which is equivalent to 28 working days. (Suppose we work 8 hours a day.) Likewise, Sydneysiders waste 17 working days, and Singaporeans lose 13 working days. Had there been flying taxis, we would have been able to avoid the annoying traffic and hence save more time, as they could travel faster in the less (or no) jammed sky. Certainly there is a demand for flying taxis. Then why is development of flying cars lagging behind despite today’s fast-evolving technology?
Conflicting Variables Delay Flying Car Development
For flying cars to become real, the initial model is likely to involve air taxi services. Taxi service is an easier option for flying cars to be commercially viable. However, there are a number of hurdles to clear before air taxi services can be commercially viable. Even something as simple as batteries can have multiple factors to consider.
For example, batteries should not be too heavy to leave enough room for passengers because the number of passengers the vehicle can carry affects the profit. At the same time, batteries also need to be able to deliver very high power to move the vehicle vertically during takeoff and landing. Additionally, batteries should recharge as quickly as possible to minimize the time when the vehicle is standing idle and not generating profit. Also, batteries need high energy densities to stay in the air for a useful amount of time to carry passengers.
The challenge is that these different variables confront each other. For instance, if you make batteries light, batteries require more frequent charging. Adding to this, high energy density increases time in the air but increases charging time as well. What is discouraging is that even after solving these technological issues, there will be other safety and regulatory hurdles to clear. Although there is some promising work going on for our ‘dream future,’ it may still take a while until we live in the ‘futuristic’ city of our childhood cartoons.
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