If you thought that the future of transportation was just electric cars and autonomous vehicles, well, there’s a push to take things a little higher.
Certainly, gasoline-free, self-driving cars are all the rage right now, and rightfully so. We are deep into the testing phase of cars that reach level four automation (level five means they are fully autonomous).
However, other transportation technologies are aiming to leave the road behind and take occupants above the fray of cars and traffic, delivering them to their destinations through the air versus across the ground.
While the promise of the flying car introduced in Back to the Future Part II may have missed the mark by a few years, the next decade will see a revolution unlike any since humans first took flight.
What is a Flying Taxi?
Traditionally, the term flying taxi is often confused with established transportation services known as Air Taxis. The latter evokes smallish airplanes or helicopters that shuttle occupants short distances, city to city, usually from one airport to another.
The modern iteration on a flying taxi, however, takes the terminology of a short-haul flight to a whole new level.
What makes the flying taxi concept both unique and potentially viable in a modern setting is the ability for the aircraft to take off and land anywhere – no airport is necessary.
Thanks to vertical ascent and descent capabilities the aircraft currently being tested are more akin to helicopters, but the design isn’t merely limited to well-known methods of flight. In fact, some prototypes now resemble oversized drones and gondola cabs with an array of small rotors attached to the roof.
Many of the designs carry only a handful of riders – from as few as two up to between five and seven, not including the pilot for the non-autonomous concepts. Indeed crewless flight is still one to two decades away, but much like the driverless automobile the drive for flying taxis to one day be pilotless is an aggressive one.
The small size though is the key to the technology proving a significant addition to an already crowded transportation network. So too is the plan for many of these crafts to be electric, eliminating the noise and nuisance of a gas powered engine.
In rising above gridlocked avenues and streets, flying taxis would utilize every aspect of the urban setting. From the ground level (in some areas) to the airspace in between or just above a cities mid and high rise buildings to the rooftops of those same structures, the tech would undoubtedly make the most of its operational field. Most proposals call for those rooftops to transition into launch and landing pads for the taxi network.
An actual airborne taxi service to get occupants from point A to point B within a densely packed city won’t just stop at the city limits though. There are also plans that would expand that reach, flying short haul, low occupant flights between closely networked cities.
Places within an hour’s drive of each other such as Dallas to Fort Worth or Baltimore to Washington DC are obvious candidates. However, taxi flights also offer the opportunity to bridge locales like Boston and New York or Los Angeles and San Francisco.
More Than Just Flying Cars
While on paper the whole enterprise seems ridiculously cool and simple enough, the reality is something different.
Uber, the peer to peer ridesharing behemoth, is one of the most visible players in the race to get the flying taxi up and running with its Elevate and UberAir programs.
In partnership with space agency NASA, Uber is working towards their taxis taking flight in 2020 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and Dubai. It’s an aggressive goal considering that Uber remains in the design phase and have yet to produce an actual working, to scale prototype.
But they are undeterred.
Jeff Holden, head of product at Uber, has said, “there’s been a great deal of progress that’s been hard to see from the outside because a lot of this is just hard work at the drafting table.”
He goes on the to note, “we feel really good. It’s been a really interesting process getting our vehicle manufacturing partners aligned on performance specifications so that they’re building vehicles that align with what we need to make Elevate successful. So lots of good progress there.”
Expanding upon the ideas of their uncrewed traffic management protocols or UTM, NASA helps to nail down the infrastructure side of the endeavor.
The UTM system is currently helping to corral the unruly nature of the growing drone industry. In theory, NASA’s UTM would lead to the creation of an entirely new system of air traffic control to guide the taxi flights.
Although the push for localized flying transports has yet to generate the same publicity as that of their earthbound automobile counterparts, Uber is far from the only player in the field. More than 15 different companies are working towards similar goals, and in many cases, a lot of investment dollars are flowing into these efforts to get them off the ground.
For example, Kitty Hawk is a startup owned and fully funded by Larry Page, co-founder of Google. Kitty Hawk is currently testing a recreational hovercraft in New Zealand meant to dovetail into their flying taxi program over the next three years.
Others companies wanting to get in on the action include aviation heavyweights Boeing and Airbus.
Boeing bought Aurora Flight Service Corporation late last year to give both their commercial and military programs in electric and autonomous flight a shot in the arm. Greg Hyslop, the Chief Technology Office for Boeing noted the deal reflects that the “the aerospace industry is going to be changing” and Boeing is aiming to be ready “for whatever that future may be.”
For their part, Airbus made a similar deal, with an investment in startup Blade, which already boasts a charter flight business that is, ironically enough, often cast as the Uber of charters. This in addition to Airbus’ in-house Vahana program.
Elsewhere, showing off at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, was an 18 rotor vehicle called the Volocopter, that until recently was flying around in the futuristic desert playground of Dubai, running test flights.
Straight out of a sci-fi movie, the Volocopter is a German designed pilotless drone that one must really see to believe and appreciate.
Dubai also has a partnership with Chinese firm EHang, whose own ambitions for flying taxis stems from the automation and delivery via drone aircraft of organ transplant materials.
Even part and component manufacturers are playing a pivotal role in making the sci-fi of flying vehicles real.
British engine maker Rolls-Royce has a propulsion system in development for use in flying taxis. They hope to have it available sometime within the next decade.
And yes, some auto manufacturers are getting into the game with Porsche in the early stages of exploring the possibility.
Just How Viable Is A Flying Vehicle?
As with any new technology, growing pains exist. Flying cars are no different. There will almost certainly be a level of turbulence before the population fully embraces the latest tech and its scalable for the masses.
Consider the now ubiquitous iPhone is less than 12 years old and was once a curiosity. The prevalence and the advancements of the device made in just over a decade are definitely remarkable. The hope is that a flying taxi can follow a similar fast-track path to success.
Of course, airborne taxis are a completely different realm. As much as humanity is yearning to see a car fly – and practically – it’s another thing when you ask those same people to take a ride. It will require a convincing sales pitch for commuters to trust a machine that has onboard parachutes as part of its standard equipment.
However, with cities more crowded and street-level gridlock a constant complaint of urban dwellers, it’s not difficult to envision city skies filled with swarms of on-demand taxis.
The CEO of Volocopter, Florian Reuter summarizes the ease of use autonomous flight offers. “Implementation would see you using your smartphone, having an app, and ordering a volocopter to the next voloport near you. The volocopter would come and autonomously pick you up and take you to your destination,” he said.
Discounting that level of simplicity and convenience is hard.
As cool as it all sounds, flying taxis – even with actual testing happening as we speak – remain a construct of the future. We noted that many of the target dates for these aerial taxi programs run between 2020 and 2030. For some, those timelines are highly ambitious.
Even those whose entire reputation derives from their lofty ambitions.
Elon Musk mused to Bloomberg during a recent interview his thoughts on flying cars, and it was less than favorable. “Obviously, I like flying things. But it’s difficult to imagine the flying car becoming a scalable solution,” he said.
Uber’s Holden, however, disagrees. “We’ve studied this carefully and we believe it is scalable,” he noted, also casting Musk’s comments as “off the cuff” and “random.”
Regardless of if it can actually happen anytime within the next few years, many are banking on it simply being a matter of time before we are living with the daily sight of flying taxi services buzzing over our heads.
While the initial product may prove a bit different from the original vision, few will argue should one of the longest held fantasies of future progress finally come true.
Written by – Anna Kučírková
Startups Which Should Have Succeeded But Failed
Ideas are like magic. Either they work or they just fizzle out and die. The same concept works with startups as well. While some startups with supremely crazy ideas boom and leave you wondering about how that happened, others which should have succeeded, failed miserably. Today, instead of looking at the successful startups, here is taking a look at the ones which should have succeeded, but didn’t:
Touted to be one of the first social media websites in the World, Friendster failed to take off as well as Facebook. Founded in the year 2002, Friendster hit the ground running with $ 50 million as funding. The site was so popular, even Google wanted to buy the site for a whopping $ 30 million. However, Friendster got too confident and decided to reject Google’s offer, a move which is still considered as one of the biggest mistakes made by a startup. While the idea of connecting with friends and talking to people on a common platform was considered a novel and bright idea, Friendster failed because it refused to move with the trends. By not letting users share news, the site slowly started becoming irrelevant as people started growing bored of the simple tools. What also went against Friendster was, it was profile based and did not let you do things unless you went directly to a person’s profile. If Friendster had stuck to the trends and gone with the flow, it wouldn’t have fizzled out and disappeared so quickly. Oh well, at least other social media platforms are learning from Friendster’s mistakes!
Founded in the year 1998 by two childhood friends, GovWorks had all the right intentions, but was not worked on in the right way. Designed both to help the government keep track of its clients, and for the citizens to perform tasks like pay tickets online, apply for jobs and look for information regarding to the city in which they were, the startup grew from having just 8 employees in the beginning to 250 employees by 2000. However, because of major rifts between the two founding partners, the startup refused to take off. Furthermore, because of the founders’ inability to fix the constantly growing bugs, they had no option but to sell GovWorks in 2001. The lesson here? If you are mixing your professional and personal life, make sure you have a plan of action to not let things go bad.
Before the likes of BigBasket and other grocery delivery platforms became popular, WebVan started toying with this idea in the year 1999. Founded by Louis Borders during the dot com boom, the startup promised to deliver groceries to customers within a 30 minute time frame. Louis Borders and CEO George Shaheen believed in the online system so much, they jumped into the business with guns blazing. Despite buying warehouses full of produce, trucks to deliver the products and expensive computers to simplify the delivery process, the startup refused to make a mark. With people refusing to buy into the idea of ordering groceries online and because of the lack of internet everywhere, the owners had no option but to shut up shop in the year 2001. If they had waited for a few years later, they would have made quite a mark now!
4. Pay By Touch
While Paytm is perhaps one of the most used apps for online payment, it wasn’t the first startup of its kind. Founded in the year 2002, Pay By Touch allowed users to make online payments with the swipe of a finger on a biometric sensor. Innovative and one of the first startups of its kind, Pay By Touch rose quickly and even raised $ 340 million! However, despite doing extremely well, the Company started failing because CEO John P. Rogers was accused of domestic abuse and possession of drugs, amongst other charges. With so much bad press, the Company stopped doing well and in 2007, it had to be shut down.
Founded in 1995, WebTV was supposed to be a combination of the World Wide Web and television. Coming in the size of a VCR which promised to bring affordable internet to the living room without using a PC, WebTV grew so big, MSN bought it and renamed it as MSN TV in the year 1997. However, because of the lack of availability of broadband and the steep price of the device, the idea slowly started to die. While WebTV didn’t take off when it launched, companies like Xbox 360 and DVRs are using a similar principle now.
While each of these startups thought their ideas could work if done right, they all failed because they just couldn’t make it across the troubled waters. If you think we missed out on other startups like these, comment and let us know!
Instagram Updates 2019
With almost a billion active users, Instagram has become the world’s most popular social media platform. Instagram first started as a simple platform which allowed people to share photos, but over the years, it has grown to become one among the most popular apps in the world. To cope with the ever increasing popularity, Instagram is constantly changing, adding new features, removing some old features and switching up their algorithm. With every update the app has something new to offer to its users.
At this year’s F8 Conference, Instagram made announcements for some major changes it is going to bring to the app. Here is a list of a few of them:
1) Instagram Stories camera
The first new Instagram feature is a refurbished camera with a new camera mode called “Create.”
The new camera will feature a mode switcher which will make it easier to find all the creative tools. In the Camera mode, you can swipe right to access all the different shooting modes like Boomerang, Rewind and Superzoom. When you swipe left, you can access all the creative tools like stickers and GIFs.
2) Hidden like count
Instagram announced it is testing a new feature which will hide the number of likes on your photos.
According to Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, this new feature can take away the pressure people feel to get more likes on their posts. With the test, Instagram plans to remove the total number of likes from photos and videos which show up on your page. It will only show a call out of the people who have liked the photo but not the exact number of likes. However, on demand, the owner of the photo or video will be able to see the total number of likes.
3) Users can now buy products from their favourite Instagram influencers
Influencers are a huge part of Instagram and they can drive massive sales for brands.
The new Instagram update will let creators tag the products they are wearing or using on Instagram. This link will directly take users to the product page for instant checkout.
This new Instagram feature could be a big game changer for brands working with influencers.
4) All new creator profiles
Just like business profiles, influencers will now be able to switch to creator profiles.
This feature will give them access to some exclusive features and in depth analysis. They will also be able to access Instagram Creator Studio from desktop, which will have a wide range of analytics metrics.
5) Donation sticker for Instagram stories
With this new Donation sticker, it is much easier to raise money for non profit purposes from within the app.
Simply open the camera, take a photo and select the Donation sticker.
You can then customize and select the cause you support and upload the story. Hundred percent of the money you raise will go to the causes you support.
6) Force posts from influencers into your feed
Instagram is now going to show posts from influencers in your feed even if you do not follow them.
Typically, Instagram shows posts from people you follow in your feed along with some ads. However, this is going to change with the next Instagram update. Apparently, influencers can pay to promote their branded content and they will appear in your feed. Instagram confirmed, these paid posts will appear in your feed and your stories in the coming weeks.
This year, Instagram has brought some great features our way and at the F8 Conference, Instagram also mentioned it is testing some features like “Away Mode” and “Nudge.”
While these updates might be extremely beneficial for influencers and businesses, we will have to wait and see how these updates will be received by the regular Instagram users.
Apple iOS 13 Announced – Everything To Know
Apple iOS 13 for iPhones and iPads is now official and it is all your dreams come true.
After the success of iOS 12.3.1, Apple announced the launch of the most awaited iOS 13 at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on 3rd June. The newest iOS version will have the much awaited Dark Mode, redesigned Reminders and Messages apps and some general performance improvements. Here are some features to which you can look forward in iOS 13:
1) Dark Mode
iPhone has a beautiful new look with Dark Mode, a new dark colour scheme which works system wide. This feature can be accessed from the control center and when enabled, the background of the phone will turn black for a better viewing experience. At the WWDC, Apple showed how the Dark Mode will work for apps like Photos, Notes and Apple Music.
2) Revamped Photos
Apple has made browsing through Photos easier. The entire library will be curated in a way to highlight only the best pictures. It is redesigned to showcase important events in the past month or week or day. According to Apple, photos and videos will be intelligently organised to let us relive our best moments.
3) Photo editing made easy
Apple has also made editing photos simpler with new tools which are easy to apply. Portrait lighting adjustments can now be made in the Camera app. With iOS 13, most of the photo editing tools are now available for videos as well, which will enable us to crop, rotate or apply filters to videos.
3) Easy sign in with Apple ID
Apple is now introducing a new way of signing into apps and websites. Instead of filling out lengthy forms, Apple users can now use their Apple ID to authenticate and Apple vouches to protect their privacy with a unique random pin. With this feature, users can also authenticate using Face ID or Touch ID for an added layer of security.
4) Redesigned Health App
The Health app has also been redesigned in the upcoming iOS 13. The homepage will feature data about the user’s daily activities. Another highlight is the Hearing Health feature which will help the user understand how loud they play music through headphones. The Health app can now track menstrual cycle as well.
With iOS 13, messages can automatically share a user’s name and photo or a custom made animoji or memoji to easily identify the person in the message thread.
6) All new Maps
Apple Maps has also been redesigned with a feature which allows users to set locations they frequently visit as Home, Work, etc., and quickly navigate through them. Common places visited by a user can all be grouped.
7) New look for Reminders
The Reminders app also will now have a new look and Apple makes it easy to create and set reminders. There will also be more innovative ways to keep track of the reminders. It is also possible to tag someone in a reminder as Reminders will be deeply integrated with Messages. The reminder will pop up every time you message the person.
Apple is also planning to make certain changes to Siri, HomePod, Notes and CarPlay. Along with this, Apple is also working on some general performance improvements. Apple also announced, the operating system for iPads will now be called iPad OS.
It will be interesting to see how all these features will improve the overall performance of the phone and whether they will be worth the upgrade.
Comment below and let us know, for which of these features are you excited.
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