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Flying cars seem a little more real since Ferrovial announced last week that it wants to build and operate 20 heliports for these vehicles in Spain, for which it has requested European funds.
It is starting to stop sounding like science fiction because the same company has already confirmed that it will build another 10 of these vertiports (that is the name of the heliports with facilities for recharging electric batteries) in Florida, United States. These do not depend on external funding, but are subject to an agreement with the jet startup Lilium, one of the most promising in the flying cab industry.
Although Ferrovial has not yet disclosed many details, it has shared that they will be runways with 6 or 8 landing zones, plus a terminal to ensure the electricity supply for the flying cars and that they can be set up in a conventional airport or in the parking lot of a commercial area, as explained by Ferrovial’s Innovation Director, Rafael Fernández, in a conversation with Business Insider España.
But beyond financing, technology, infrastructure, and regulation, all of which are essential for the arrival of air cars and cabs in cities, a fundamental and determining element is the acceptance of this means of transport by the general public.
A Lufthansa report (entitled Are air cabs ready for prime time?) on the state of flying cabs in 2021 also stresses that public acceptance is a must for these vehicles to reach the market, which justifies, the study indicates, that industry giants such as Airbus, Hyundai or Porsche do not seem to be in a hurry to launch them and insists that such a “sophisticated” ecosystem has yet to be developed and will take years of careful planning and work.
But the feeling is positive: one of the findings of the study is in line with scientific studies by the University of Stuttgart, Airbus, and the German Fraunhofer Institute, and reveals that today most people are open to the concept and associate flying cabs with positive ideas. Lufthansa has analyzed the tone of all the articles and social media posts about vertical deployment and landing vehicles and flying cars and believes that public sentiment towards them has changed from negative to positive in recent years.
“It is an important change, because fear and insecurity among the population are undoubtedly the biggest stones in the way of flying cars becoming a viable transportation option,” the report remarks. The airline identifies 2017 as the year of change, after many others of pessimistic and critical tone with this means of transportation.
“The change seems to be coming thanks to the marketing efforts of startups and also by many credible transport companies that have presented their first prototypes, transforming pure fiction into a more tangible reality,” the German airline company insists. Among the startups most mentioned in articles and networks, and which seem to be leading this change, are Ehang (50% of the time), Volopter (31%), Lilium (14%), and Joby Aviation (5%), according to the aforementioned analysis.
The most decisive factors for the population to look favorably on them: noise, job elimination, and the price of travel
“The public’s desire to use passenger electric vertical deployment and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) in the future will be a combination of their concerns, which will focus on safety and privacy,” Ferrovial says in another report it has produced through its innovation platform, which it has dubbed Foresight.
“Acceptance of and confidence in autonomous technology and its associated safety systems will be crucial to the broad development of urban air mobility solutions, including possible barriers such as people thinking that autonomous technology will kill jobs, concerns about noise pollution and city aesthetics, which could also lead to some resistance to the acceptance of eVTOLs.
The 4 biggest obstacles that are hindering the arrival of flying cars and the startups most likely to overcome them.
Lufthansa also remarks that noise reduction technology is going to “play an important role for investors,” as “surveys and studies show that low noise levels are critical for public acceptance, especially in urban environments.”
“From an economic point of view, the price per trip offered by operators and the opportunity costs associated with that price will be a decisive factor in the scale of which urban air mobility services are adopted,” remarks Ferrovial, which in the aforementioned study only assesses that the aforementioned flying cars will be used to move people and not as goods transport vehicles, a reality that will also arrive, although with fewer regulatory hurdles.
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