The future of personal transportation will be very different from the past. If you marry two clear trends—the advent of self-driving cars with increasingly popular Uber transportation—it’s easy to envision a world where you can sell your car and convert the garage into a spare bedroom. Why would you need your own auto when you can call for an inexpensive, automated ride to anywhere and back? And as a bonus, you avoid parking hassles because you’ll be driven right to the destination’s doorstep.
Now let’s marry one more technology to the mix and see what we come up with. An article in the Economist magazine says that Uber is exploring the use of drone technology. The company has released a white paper on a program called Elevate, which would involve a fleet of flying cars that could turn a 2-hour road trip into a 15 minute flight at 150 miles an hour. No traffic, and all trips would take the shortest possible distance. As a bonus, because there would be no driver and the trips would take less time, the actual cost would be lower than what you pay for a traditional Uber ride today.
The electrically-powered drones would be called VTOLs, or vertical take-off and landing vehicles (see the accompanying picture), which look like modified helicopters. They would be stationed at “vertiports” when not in use, and periodically return to their port to make use of the charging station. Then you take a trip, you’ll be delivered to small landing pads on rooftops or parking lots near your destination.
When will this happen? The white paper anticipates a 10-year period from today’s planning to the launch in 2026. At that time, it might be possible for people in New York to grab lunch in Philadelphia or Washington, D.C., meanwhile reducing traffic for people who are determined to hang onto their cars.