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Automakers and the Aircraft Industry Team to Make Cars Fly

by | July 8, 2024

Flying cars have long been the stuff of science fiction. But they will soon become a part of everyday reality, as we learn in this exclusive excerpt from the new book: “Dude, Where’s My Flying Car?”

Archer Midnight Airtaxi

The Archer Midnight prototype made a critical flight test last month, transitioning between vertical and horizontal flight.

The future of transportation is looking up – quite literally.   Imagine, instead of an hour to 1 ½ hour drive to the airport, you can hop into a flying taxi somewhere in or around your neighborhood and get to the airport to fly on your scheduled long-haul jet in less than 10 minutes.  That would be a game changer for modern, personal travel.  It’s actually happening sooner than you may think.

With recent announcements from Urban Air Mobility (UAM) companies such as Archer Aviation, Joby Aviation, Lilium Jet and Boeing’s Wisk Aero, it seems that air taxi services are no longer just a futuristic concept, but a reality that is approaching more quickly than most people realize.  Archer, Joby and Wisk are all based in Silicon Valley, California, the new Detroit for personal aerial mobility.  Lilium Jet is based in Germany, though has US operations located in Orlando, Florida and Tacoma, Washington.

The aviation platforms are called electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOLs) vehicles and are commonly referred to as flying cars or passenger drones.   They are designed to take-off and land like a helicopter, though, with their propellers rotating forward, they will fly through the air like airplanes.

International flying taxi service plans announced

Joby eVTOL flying in air 2022

Backed by Toyota, Joby’s eVTOL has made a series of test flights.

Archer Aviation has investments from business partners Boeing, United Airlines and Stellantis, the European headquartered automaker that owns US brands Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram.   Archer has set its sights on the city of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with plans to launch flying taxi services there as early as 2026, as part of an agreement announced in early May.    Archer will begin with five vertiport landing points around the San Francisco Bay area.

Joby Aviation has strong financial support from Boeing, Delta Airlines and Toyota.  Joby is following suit by announcing its own flying taxi services for the city of Dubai, also in UAE, with plans to start in 2026, yet with designs toward a 2025 start.  Joby will also start with five destination vertiports around the city of Dubai.

Metro areas in the US are ready for launch of aerial mobility

Lilium Flying Car

While eVTOLs use electric motors, the number of rotors varies widely. This prototype from Lilium uses 36.

It’s not just international cities that are getting in on the quickly advancing flying taxi industry action.

Archer Aviation has announced a partnership with Kilroy Realty, a commercial real estate and development company based in the San Franisco area, in order to provide urban air mobility services around the Bay area.  Archer plans to offer air taxi services to/from vertiports around the San Francisco Bay area:  Livermore, Oakland, San Jose, Napa Valley and Oyster Point.

Lilium Jet is pacing the eVTOL urban air mobility race with plans to offer air taxi services in South Florida, including the cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, in partnership with Urban Link, a UAM services company.   The first 30 flying taxi vehicles have been ordered for that project.

More flying car news

Boeing Flying Car

Boeing is one of the companies planning to allow its flying cab to operate autonomously.

Boeing enters the game

Wisk Aero, wholly owned by Boeing, is also making moves, with plans announced to launch air taxi services in the Houston, Texas area, traveling from the Sugar Land (TX) Airport to Houston’s George W. Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston Hobby Airport and points in Downtown Houston.

These announcements are just the beginning.  As more companies enter the air taxi services market and more cities are confirmed, we can expect to see a rapid expansion of urban air mobility services in the coming years.  While the focus may currently be on commercial air taxi services, it’s likely that these are just the precursor to personal access to urban air mobility and even individual ownership of flying cars.

Drone technology is driving force for development of flying cars

DJI Drone

There’s a lot in common between eVTOLs and the drones that are becoming increasingly common.

In speaking to groups about the advancement of aerial transportation as personal mobility, I find most people have no idea this new form of mobility is coming straight at them.  Just as bicycles were the pre-curser in mobility to motorcycles, cars, and because of Orville and Wilbur Wright, even small planes, drone technology is the precursor to getting into the air with flying cars.

Drones are now regularly used for military assignments, medical resource deliveries in remote areas, law enforcement surveillance and reconnaissance, package deliveries by retailers and more.  Drone technology serves as the first meaningful step to moving aviation industry in VTOL-sized vehicles for many additional purposes, not the least of which is transporting passengers.

That drone show you saw on the recent 4th of July night light exposition demonstrates how hundreds of drones can interact together choreographed to wave flags, simulate rockets and decorate the holiday sky with a fully calibrated patriotic spectacle.   Just as drones can be programmed to operate closely with each other in the night sky, flying cars can be configured to keep skies safe, coordinate with others in the air, and ultimately be programmed to fly autonomously from one location in a metro area to another, or even to the airport and connect its passengers to their long-haul flights, seamlessly and speedily improving the personal travel experience.

How soon?

Supernal SA-2 - Beauty Shot

Flying taxis are expected to start taking to the air before the end of the decade.

With advancements in technology and a growing demand for efficient and sustainable transportation options, the future of airborne taxis looks bright and exciting.

By 2025 or 2026, and almost certainly by 2030, we may very well see skies populated with flying cars, revolutionizing the way we travel and ushering in a new era of transportation and personal mobility.  So, buckle up, because the future of personal mobility is about to go vertical, increasing options for ways to get around and do it more efficiently, more quickly and with less pressure on surface transportation, highways and driver anxioty.

Tim Jackson is the author of the recently released book “Dude, where’s my flying car?  A fascinating look at the past, present and incredible future of personal mobility”


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