When I attended a mobility and transport conference in London in 2018 I remember the hot topic discussed in speeches and during coffee breaks was about electric flying taxis and how they could solve congestion problems in our cities. The most common example was the transfer between Heathrow airport and Central London that could take 10-15 mins against the usual 30 mins by train or 45-60 mins by Underground.
These flying taxis are known as eVTOL vehicles where the “e” stands for electric and VTOL for Vertical Take-Off and Landing. Despite some of us was a bit skeptical about this solution that may just move the congestion from roads to sky, but not eliminate it, it certainly was fascinating thinking of getting moved from/to airports in a few minutes.
Last Monday 26th Sept I read on the Financial Times an article starting with this concept:
“The number of companies in the electric air taxi industry will shrink next year as investors tighten their belts amid global economic uncertainty and focus on projects they believe will come to fruition”.
And the question posed in the article was: “But how can people actually make money operating these . . . can you have an Uber in the sky?”. Probably this is the correct way of seeing this issue.
Besides, the change of habit introduced by the Covid-19 pandemic (about going to the office only a few days a week and travelling much less as meetings and conferences are now held online) has certainly had an impact on these innovative transport solutions.
The 28-29 Sept there were the Innovation Days organised by the European Commission and were held entirely online; many other conferences are now organised in hybrid format (in person and online) making travelling less important than in the past and organising events cheaper because large spaces are not needed any more.
Probably what it would be needed anyway is a robust public transport network, an agile Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) solution to help urban travellers leave their own car at home. In particular, MaaS solutions should be very much user friendly with regard to their usability and User Experience because, let’s not forget, what we all do when travelling in another city or even abroad is opening our Google Maps, set our final destination from where we are and usually find a reliable set of suggestions with bus/tram stops, PT services and timetables, Underground stations as well as choosing alternative services such as bike sharing, Uber and FreeNow.
This is what our local authorities should think about if they want to keep their cities vibrant, but not congested.
EPN Consulting and EPN Consulting Research & Innovation Founder and CEO