Picture yourself getting into a taxi. Then picture yourself in that taxi as it lifts off the ground and takes to the air. Now picture yourself in that air taxi without a driver.
A report by the Boston Consulting Group predicts that people around the world will take one billion flights in air taxis in 2030, once sharing services have also established a presence on fixed routes above the ground.
And there are many among us who have heard the predictions of private air travel all too often over the past half century, the capabilities to provide advanced control systems for this air traffic is predicted to be a game changer that could actually make it a reality.
And this has the potential to add to the mobility disruptions already predicted for the ground based transportation infrastructure.
“The first flying taxis are set to take off in major cities starting in 2023, at the latest. Bosch plans to play a leading role in shaping this future market,” says Harald Kröger, president of the Bosch Automotive Electronics division. To help it achieve this goal, Bosch has discovered a gap in the market. Conventional aerospace technology is too expensive, bulky, and heavy to be used in autonomous flying taxis.
However, modern sensors that are also used for automated driving or in the ESP anti-skid system could have the potential to bridge this gap. That is why a team of engineers has combined dozens of sensors to create a universal control unit for flying taxis.
Based on sensors used in conventional vehicles, the universal control unit uses sensors already used in production vehicle. The universal control unit is designed to ensure the ability to determine the position of the flying taxis at all times, allowing them to be controlled with precision and safety.
“We aim to make civil aviation with flying taxis affordable for a wide range of providers,” says Marcus Parentis, the head of the technology team at Bosch in charge of the control units.
The market for flights using electric air taxis in cities is set to see substantial growth in the years ahead. Test flights are scheduled to begin in cities such as Dubai, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Singapore in 2020. Experts expect commercial operations to begin in 2023. Although pilots will probably be on board at first, the light aircraft could start flying autonomously over the roofs of major cities as early as 2025, controlled by staff on the ground.
And one air-taxi startup, Lilium, debuted its prototype in May in Germany.
The unveiling of the new five-seater air taxi prototype Lilium Jet came as the all-electric aircraft completed its maiden flight in the skies over Germany earlier this month, controlled from the ground.
The full-scale, full-weight prototype is powered by 36 all-electric jet engines that allow it to take-off and land vertically, while achieving efficient horizontal, or cruise, flight. The craft has a top speed of 300 km/h and a range of 300 km. This design, with a fixed wing, differs from many other air taxis that employ drone type designs.
“Compared to today’s means of transportation, flying taxis save time on trips of 10 kilometers or more, with a maximum range of up to 300 kilometers,” Parentis says.
And while the estimated cost of such transports is three-quarter of a million dollars, they’re still cheaper than helicopter transport that some urban commuters currently use.
“We are talking to air taxi manufacturers from the aerospace and automotive industries, as well as with start-ups that build air vehicles and are looking to provide sharing services,” Parentis says. “The question isn’t whether flying taxis will become reality, but when.”