The future of personal mobility has focused on autonomous vehicles, but Airbus is looking even further ahead — flying cars. In fact, the aviation company claims it’ll have a working prototype ready by the end of the year.
Airbus CEO Tom Enders made the announcement yesterday while speaking at the DLD digital tech conference in Munich, Germany, Reuters reports.
“One hundred years ago, urban transport went underground, now we have the technological wherewithal to go above ground,” Enders said. He said flying cars would help reduce traffic and wouldn’t command expensive supporting infrastructure because “with flying, you don’t need to pour billions into concrete and roads.”
Airbus is widely known for building commercial and passenger aircraft and helicopters. But last year it established a new “Urban Air Mobility” division dedicated to future personal transportation. The division is now called A³ (“A-Cubed”) and is based in Silicon Valley.
The division’s main project is dubbed Vahana, “a self-piloted flying vehicle platform for individual passenger and cargo transport,” Airbus said in a company magazine article published last year. The company envisions a future where its autonomous flying vehicles will be hailed via an app, similar to Uber and Lyft ride-hailing services.
Airbus says these vehicles can carry multiple passengers and could be ready to launch in as soon as 10 years. The company hasn’t provided details on its upcoming prototype, but Reuters reports it’ll be a one-passenger vehicle.
Airbus isn’t alone with its flying car ambitions. Last year the EHang 184 passenger drone was unveiled at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show. Meanwhile, Zee.Aero is another Silicon Valley-based startup looking into flying cars and reportedly has the backing of Google co-founder Larry Page.