Are Air Taxis Getting Closer?
Last week a headline in the Los Angeles Times proclaimed “Look! Up in the sky! It’s an air taxi. They’re coming to Los Angeles.”

Even the British newspaper the Times took notice:
Air taxis will be flying through the skies above Los Angeles in time for the summer Olympics of 2028 if city officials and entrepreneurs have their way.

A Silicon Valley company is the latest to claim that it is close to creating viable electric vehicles that can offer short hops above the traffic-choked streets for not much more than the cost of an Uber ride. Adam Goldstein, chief executive of Archer Aviation, told the Los Angeles Times that his vertical take-off aircraft, designed to travel 60 miles on a single charge at up to 150mph, would “completely change the way we live, the way we work”, and could be flying within two years.

The Los Angeles Times cited estimates of $1 billion spent testing electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft, known as eVTOL, just last year, and noted the “hundreds of companies competing” to build a new “transportation empire.” And their opening paragraph paints the scene:
Imagine avoiding that soul-crushing, hourlong slog — say from Santa Monica to downtown L.A. on a Tuesday morning. Instead, you hail a high-tech cab that will hop over the gridlock and get you there in nine minutes…. The promise of flying cars — for generations a Hollywood staple of a space-age future, from “The Jetsons” to “Blade Runner” — is finally becoming a reality, so much so that a Swedish company is already selling a single-passenger vehicle called Jetson 1. Los Angeles transportation officials are preparing for this new era and expect drone-like electric air taxis to be operational by the time the 2028 Summer Olympics roll around, if not far sooner….

While many detractors doubt that such travel will soon be viable, affordable or safe, the industry is working with cities to make the technology a reality in the next five years.

The Observer also noted that another eVTOL pioneer, Germany’s Volocopter, plans to launch commercial service for its two-seat VoloCity aircraft in 2024 in Europe, with a four-seater by 2026. But are there possible downsides?

In cities like New York, wealthy commuters are already taking helicopter rides on a regular basis, and complaints about helicopter noise have skyrocketed in recent years, prompting the city to introduce a bill last week to ban non-essential helicopter uses, such as sightseeing and short-distance travel, in parts of Manhattan.

eVTOLs are quieter than helicopters by design, but they are by no means silent.

Even the Los Angeles Times acknowledges “There are concerns about safety, quality of life and affordability.”

While a single air taxi may be relatively quiet, what happens when there is a constant stream of them coming in and out of a landing spot? Should there be nighttime restrictions on flights? Will this just be a means for the ultra-wealthy to buzz over poor neighborhoods to Dodger Stadium or Crypto.com Arena?
But the Times’ article still drew angry letters to the editor, with one calling air taxis “a disaster waiting to happen.”

Instead of boosterism reporting and parroting industry marketing claims that these aircraft are some kind of a godsend, how about reporting on how many decibels these flying bubbles for the elite will blare onto the plebes below…? [T]he paper’s naive reporting on the technology are disappointing.
They’d also called the Times’ claim of $50-a-flight prices “fanciful” — and a second letter writer also expressed skepticism about that low estimated cost. “That reminds one of the outlandish initial promise we were given that the bullet train would cost $33 billion to build.”

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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