Saturday, 13 January 2018 | MYT 10:00 AM
Will flying cars soon be beating city gridlock?
Congested streets, dirty air and a diminished quality of life. Traffic overload is set to suffocate modern cities unless a solution is found soon.
German entrepreneur Florian Reuter is one of a handful of engineers around the world who think they have found the answer.
This man's dream is the Velocopter flying taxi, a project backed by car giant Daimler. The prototype has been successfully tested in Dubai.
The idea of going out in the backyard and hopping into a flying car for the commute to work certainly appeals.
Reuter is convinced that this is not just a rich man's dream. He sees the flying car as the best way to beat city gridlock. "This will become a reality more quickly than many people think," he says.
Reuter aims to turn the transport world on its head with aerial electric drones that whisk people from one urban landscape to another.
Reuter is not the only entrepreneur fettling a flying car. In Munich the Lilium company is also working on an all-electric vertical-take-off (VTOL) flying taxi.
Uber says it will launch a flying taxi service by 2020 and has teamed up with the NASA space agency for this purpose.
The flying taxi idea is as old as science fiction. Safety issues, high operating costs and the issue of whether drivers will need a special licence have slowed down development, but they have failed to ground the idea.
Swiss futurologist Lars Thomsen believes the skies will be filled with whirring cars within a space of 10 to 20 years. "They can take off anywhere and anyone can use them", he says.
Reuter aims to market the first Volocopter as a sports machine and later as a taxi. His was able to convince Daimler to invest in the project. After all, the firm's famous three-pointed star symbolises Mercedes-Benz transport on the ground, at sea and aloft.
Big money is being ploughed into flying car projects. Alongside tech firms like Uber and Google, big name carmakers are aiming to get a slice of the aerial action.
Technology has matured and modern electric motors are capable of propelling air taxis that use lighter and more powerful batteries.
Reuter's machine uses 18 rotors fed by nine batteries. It can carry a payload in excess of 100 kilograms and has a range of more than 300 kilometres.
Toyota is said to be working on a radical flying car which would lift a driver to the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020. Chinese automaker Geely has bought flying car startup Terrafugia and has promised a skyborne runabout by 2019.
Airbus showed its flying car concept "Pop.up" at the Geneva Car Show earlier this year. It can both fly and drive on roads.
People will need to get used to the idea of flying cars taking off and landing all over the place and there have been warnings about increased urban noise.
For crystal-gazer Lars Thomson, individual air transport is a logical step. "We have already conquered the skies in order to live and work. If we want to remain mobile we will need to add a third dimension to urban transportation." — dpa