Years ago, Greyhound advertised their bus service with the memorable jingle, “Take the bus. Leave the driving to us.” Today, that same adage may well transform into, “Take the helicopter/car/hoverbike and leave the driving to nobody.”
The future of automated transportation is bright as demonstrated by several recent breakthroughs in both aerial and land vehicles. Perhaps the innovation surrounded by the most buzz (literally) is the Volocopter.
Designed by German firm e-volo, the Volocopter is a remote-controlled capable, 18-propeller helicopter designed to carry two passengers. In tests, the copter has flown up to 72 feet and uses batteries. Designers say the Volocopter will – once commercially certified – fly up to 6,500 feet for up to one hour.
e-volo Co-Chief Executive Stephan Wolk told CNN:
“What we’re looking at now, is in the future where everyone is traveling not by car, but by some kind of aircraft. Normal helicopters are very hard to fly. But we thought ‘what if you could have a helicopter that is easy for the pilot to fly, and cheap compared to other aircraft?’”
The company hopes to launch its first retail model in 2015 at a whopping $338,000.
Though not necessarily drone-based but definitely in the same ballpark, other developers are pinning their futures on a variety of automated vehicles. For those who want a little more adventure (and have watched Flash Gordon one too many times), British-based company Malloy Aeronautics is developing the Hoverbike.
Billed as offering the “simplicity of a motorbike and the freedom of a helicopter,” the Hoverbike will fly “like a quadcopter, and can be flown unmanned or manned, while being a safe – low level aerial workhorse with low on-going maintenance,” Malloy says.
The designer added that when coupled with a 3DR Pixhawk flight controller, Hoverbike “can fly by itself on a pre-determined flight path and return to home.”
For those who love automation but hate leaving terra firma, the sky (pavement?) is the limit as more companies enter the race to deploy self-driving cars. Long synonymous with Google, the concept of a self-driver is revving up all over the place. Nissan recently announced plans to launch a driverless vehicle by 2020.
Other automakers steering towards the automated starting line include Toyota, Audi, andVolkswagen. Never one to be outdone, Mercedes (Daimler) recently released a video of its Future Truck 2025 traveling at swift speeds down Germany’s Autobahn without a driver.
In a media statement, Mercedes/Daimler board member Wolfgang Bernhard said, “The Future Truck 2025 is our response to the major challenges and opportunities associated with road freight transport in the future.