Wednesday, 14 June 2017 GMT
Author: Staveley Head
The days of being sat in traffic could soon be numbered, and the reality of being whisked away in an e-VTOL (or ‘electric vertical take-off and landing’ aircraft to you and me) after a day in work is quickly becoming a reality.
As providers of taxi insurance we’re taking a look into autonomous taxi drones and what they could mean for taxi drivers.
Ready for take-off
Flying taxis and ‘vertiports’ could soon be a major part of our cityscapes by the year 2030, with both Dubai and Singapore already looking to invest in autonomous drones. The head of Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority has claimed that they will have a drone ferrying people around the city by July of this year. The type of drone that could be used for the service is the Ehang 184 AAV, which has the ability to carry one passenger (up to 100kg) along with a small bag.
Here it is in action:
Singapore is also planning to have a fleet of flying vehicles as part of its transport system, alongside on-demand buses, driverless pods and autonomous taxis.
One of the proposed vehicles is the Hoversurf Scorpion, created by a Russian start-up company. This is a single person bike-like drone, which we think looks like something out of Star Wars!
Another is the Volocopter VC200 developed by German company e-volo, this machine does resemble something more of a traditional helicopter, with runners and a cockpit. However to get it off the ground the Volocopter is powered by 18 electric rotors.
The final option that the Singapore Transport Department are looking at is the Ehang 184, which is already being tested in Dubai as mentioned above.
What does all this mean for taxi drivers?
Self-driving cars have been a talking point in the industry for a while, with firms like Uber paving the way for fully autonomous cars to be used as taxis. Although it’s not exactly been smooth sailing for them, Uber, Google and Airbus are still pushing to advance this technology further.
We won’t expect e-VTOLS to fully become part of transport systems in the next 13-years. This type of technology is extremely expensive at the moment and will take a while for it to trickle down to the general population, and if they do come in to use, they may only be able to travel short distances and their reliability will be uncertain. This means that drivers could still be required to make longer journeys outside of the cities.
Will other industries be affected?
It’s not only taxi drivers that could be affected, drones could also be used in place of couriers and truckers to deliver our goods and purchases.
Amazon has made no secret in its plans to use drones and has filed a patent to create a giant flying warehouse to make deliveries to certain locations. UPS and Fedex are also looking to develop this technology, with delivery firm DHL already having a regular autonomous drone-delivery based service to Juist, a small island off the coast of Germany.
As with using drones for our taxi services, how all this would work is a little uncertain and people will still be required to make longer journeys as the range that drones can travel is limited. However, the trend for self-driving vehicles seems to be on the rise and could be something we’ll have to learn to get used to in the near future.
Drones and insurance
The use of drones is already widely used in other industries such as; agriculture, construction, the military, research and public services and many companies are already offering insurance for these remote controlled drones.
But what about fully autonomous drones ferrying passengers about? Insurers have argued that risks could be great, unless there is some form of ‘centralised control’ monitoring an aerial roadway.