Next Stop: Flying Cars and Air Taxis

Can we finally say goodbye to traffic pollution, congestion and collisions?

Apparently, we can. And we’re not talking about electric cars, alternative fuel, new braking technologies or urban planning technologies on the ground.

We are at the threshold of The Jetsons-style of stratospheric utopian future. Yes, air taxis and flying cars are coming our way with the first air taxi scheduled to soar above the Singapore skyline by the end of 2019.

First-ever Volo-Port

German aircraft manufacturer Volocopter and U.K.-based vertiport owner and operator Skyports have unveiled plans to complete the first-ever Volo-Port (the physical landing pad) in Singapore.

The series of impending public flight trials are supported by the Ministry of Transport, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, and the Economic Development Board. Emission-free, electrically-powered and capable of vertical take-off and landing, Volocopters are built upon drone technology.

Communications using networks of low latency will be critical to the vertiport infrastructure and the successful calibration of urban air traffic together with the safety of its deployment. Here, 5G aims to play a huge role.

Dialing into Air Taxis

5G networks are set to expand broadband wireless services beyond mobile internet to IoT and the critical communications segment. These will serve the communication needs for billions of connected devices.

Recently acquired by the Thales Group, leading digital security organization Gemalto summed up the benefits that 5G offers:

Vehicle to vehicle (V2V): 5G will enable direct communication from vehicle to vehicle, without passing through the network, to prevent traffic congestion and delays. Autonomous vehicles can alert others of change of conditions, such as collisions, weather, road incidents. It allows vehicles to drive close to each other in “platoons” or a group of vehicles going in the same direction at a given time, achieving traffic optimization and increasing road safety.

Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I): 5G will enable communication between the vehicle and infrastructure, such as sensors, traffic lights, cameras, drones, and others. The issue today is that the wireless technologies used by existing systems are fragmented. 5G will not only unify the communication and provide direct low latency, but it will also enable intelligent applications not achievable today. Commuters will be able to save time on traveling while protecting the environment by reducing pollutant emissions.

Multimodal transportation: 5G will enable seamless commutes, even to the outskirts of the urban circle. It can be achieved by combining several modes of transportation along the journey: from taking public or private transport to completing the last mile journey using micro-mobility solutions such as electric bikes. The challenge lies in making a smooth transition and ensuring that registration and payment are as seamless and secure as possible. 5G could augment these transitions by providing the agility to verify identities and payment through solutions like Trusted Digital Identities so users can jump off one ride and quickly go to the next.

Bosch Sensor Box

With the Boston Consulting Group predicting that people around the world will take 1 billion flights in air taxis in 2030, Bosch Group’s Mobility sector has also jumped on the bandwagon to create state-of-the-art sensor technology for air taxis.

Bosch engineers have combined dozens of sensors to create a universal control unit for flying taxis. These modern sensors are currently used for automated driving or in the ESP anti-skid system. Equipped with MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) sensors, the control unit is designed to determine the position of the flying taxis at all times and allow them to be controlled with precision and safety.

Especially small and lightweight, the Bosch sensor box can also be easily installed into air vehicles using plug-and-play.

Making Air Mobility A Reality

With technologies readily available to enhance the commuting experience, air taxis will soon be a reality.

While current IoT services make trade-offs to get the best performance from current wireless technologies such as 3G, 4G, WiFi and others, 5G networks are specifically designed to bring the level of performance needed for IoT en masse and enable a pervasively connected world.