The futuristic multi-propeller aircraft sounds like an airborne Uber – passengers use an app to book passage, head to their local helipad, climb aboard with a number of other passengers, and in the words of Airbus are "whisked away to their destination." Each ride would cost "nearly the equivalent of a normal taxi ride for each passenger." Beyond the advantages of avoiding traffic, Airbus claims its new conveyance will be faster, more sustainable, and, obviously, more exciting. Initially, the program would rely on a human pilot, but as with nearly every mode of modern transport, there would eventually be an autonomous version.
"I'm no big fan of Star Wars, but it's not crazy to imagine that one day our big cities will have flying cars making their way along roads in the sky," Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders said. (Wait, what's wrong with Star Wars, Tom?) "In a not too distant future, we'll use our smartphones to book a fully automated flying taxi that will land outside our front door – without any pilot."
According to Airbus, the autonomous bit is going to be toughest to implement. The company acknowledges there are a number of questions it doesn't have answers to, like how multiple CityAirbuses will communicate with each other, and how the company will prevent hackers from hijacking them – "To answer these questions, we are relying on the expertise and support of the entire Airbus Group," said Marius Bebesel, head of demonstrations at Airbus Helicopters.
Airbus has no timeline for getting CityAirbuses in the skies, but it is preparing the first test of Project Vahana – an all-electric, autonomous helicopter that customers can use for both personal journeys and cargo hauling – in late 2017.