Uber will be launching a flying car service, with Melbourne, Australia, chosen as the first trial location.
Wow! We really are living in the age of the Jetsons.
Imagine the convenience of being able to step out of one’s office, hail a taxi and then sit back in luxury as its electric-powered motors glide you up noiselessly and smoothly up in the air to your destination anywhere in the city under the control of the auto pilot.
Ok, you won’t be able to hail it from your office, you’ll have to got to a designated helipad.
Ok, you can’t go exactly anywhere, it’ll just be to the main airport and back.
Ok, it won’t be powered by electric batteries but aviation fuel.
And they’ll be an expensively-trained and qualified pilot at the controls.
But it definitely flies!
All right, as you were people: Uber has bought a helicopter and are entering the executive city to airport transfer market. We haven’t just stepped in to an episode of Buck Rogers after all.
What is it about using the word “car” as a suffix that makes us suspend our normal analytical skills?
Other examples include electric cars, i.e. coal-fired cars, unless the national grid has gone 100% renewable, and self-driving cars, which have about as much chance of being approved today in most jurisdictions as single malt whisky would be if alcohol was a new drug and needed to apply for a licence
Yet here we are, with gushing news articles telling us about the revolutionary future we are entering because, I dunno,
boats amphibious cars have just been invented or some such drivel.
The only revolution that will make any tangible dent in the current economics of public or private transport is the realisation of the autonomous vehicle dream.
Every other potential change involves the same quantum of input costs as the current version. Flying “cars” that still need a qualified pilot are going to be affordable to exactly the same people who currently use helicopters.
A car that uses battery power still requires the same amount of energy to overcome friction. Unless we’ve found a new source of energy, electric vehicles are simply an incremental change. And whatever we do, let’s not mention nuclear energy, by the way…. Green narratives need to be respected after all.
Autonomous vehicles, on the other hand, would remove the requirement for an expensive, error prone, wet computer in the driving seat.
Ironically, that’s the change we’re furthest from experiencing.