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E-taxis: Here come the wackiest concepts


E-taxis: Here come the wackiest concepts

April 30, 2019

New mobility concepts aim to make being on the move more comfortable for people. Sometimes, however, technological developments not only make it more convenient, but also – at least from today's point of view – a little crazier. As is the case with these electric taxis.

Discover here: 

  • How to get to your next appointment on time with the “Volocopter” and “Cora” passenger drones
  • Why there is always a chaperon in Waymo's autonomous taxis
  • How the classic rickshaw becomes an electric pedicab
  • Why you will soon be able to collect sharing e-bikes at your front door

“Volocopter”: the autonomous air taxi

You are late, your flight leaves in two hours and the traffic is disastrous again. With a classic taxi, there is no doubt that you would be late. So you pull out your smartphone, order a taxi drone via the app and have it pick you up from the nearest high-rise and flown to the airport. Does this sound like a utopian future? The German company “Volocopter” firmly believes that this is what the future holds: passenger drones that transport customers from A to B – without a pilot.

Volocopter taxi drone on the roof of a house
In the long run, transport in air taxis should not cost much more than a classic taxi ride.

To advance the testing of air taxis in Germany, the autonomously flying air taxis are already taking off for test flights in Ingolstadt in Upper Bavaria. The concept also convinces politicians, such as Dorothee Bär, Minister of State and Federal Government Commissioner for Digitalisation: “In the age of networked urban mobility, it is essential all modes of transport interact optimally: on land, at sea and in the air. That is why the mobility of the future naturally includes air taxis.”

Together, Italdesign, Airbus and Audi are going one step further. The three companies are jointly developing the “Pop.Up Next” modular transport system for everyone who wants to bypass both traffic jams and the need to change trains on their way to their destination. The name stands for a system where you take a seat in a transport capsule. Depending on the fastest way to travel and where you want to go, the capsule is either placed on the vehicle module or suspended from a drone. Your means of transport changes from a car into an air taxi and back into a car – without the need to get out and move between them.


An Airbus air drone flies through the city
As soon as the flight module docks with a transport capsule, you take to the skies. 

Electric flying taxis at the other end of the world

The New Zealand airline, Air New Zealand, shares the same view and is also focusing on electric taxis. In 2018, it signed a cooperation agreement with the start-up company Zephyr Airworks to jointly launch the flight taxi “Cora”. “Cora” covers a maximum distance of 100 kilometres with a top speed of 180 km/h. The drone takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter and, therefore, requires only a small platform instead of a runway. This is made possible by twelve movable rotors. If these fail, the emergency parachute deploys and allows the taxi to glide gently to the ground. Once the development has matured, the autonomous air taxi has a good chance of becoming the world's first public flying taxi.

Kittyhawk’s flying taxi “Cora” at the airport
The twelve movable rotors ensure that “Cora” does not need a runway but can simply set down anywhere.

Robotaxis: reaching your destination without a driver

Trust in unmanned vehicles and aircraft has yet to grow. Completely relinquishing control over the taxi journey could prevent people from ordering an autonomous taxi. Waymo shows how it could work: you can order a taxi to your starting point via app, the way you are used to. Instead of telling a taxi driver where to go, the destination is entered digitally, and payment too. Because there is actually no driver. To make it easier for passengers to overcome the mental hurdle of entering a driverless taxi for the first time, Waymo has a chaperon sitting on the driver's seat during the journey, but he does not have his hands on the steering wheel. His job description includes gradually introducing passengers to autonomous driving, and intervening if the electric car does not know what to do next.

The commercial driving service with self-driving cars began operating at the end of 2018 in the USA, but initially with beta testers. To ensure the highest possible passenger safety and comfort, Waymo fleet vehicles have already driven more than 15 million test kilometres in various US cities, such as San Francisco, Atlanta and Detroit. It is not yet clear when and where Waymo will start public operations.

Pedicab: the electric taxi cycle

Pedicabs are ready for guests

Do you prefer a real driver at your side but still want to leave traffic jams behind? Another unusual taxi alternative could help: the pedicab. The electrically assisted bicycle is the next step in the development of the traditional rickshaw. The electric bicycle with a rear bench winds its way through the dense traffic, primarily in Asian countries. In Germany, you will see the Pedicabs sporadically, mostly in places popular with tourists.

Why is the pedicab less popular in Germany? The unpleasant experience of someone else pedalling while the passenger enjoys the view could be a reason. Scientists at the University of Magdeburg are already working to remedy this situation. The researchers have developed a three-wheeled, autonomous electric bike that can be called via app. As with the robo-taxi and the passenger drone, you may one day be sitting alone in the pedicab, enjoying the peace and quiet provided by the electric drive of the revolutionary taxis.