Watch these test flights of Cora, an all-electric air taxi


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/03/17/watch-these-test-flights-of-co.html


#2

Government entities thought Uber was bending the rules with ride-sharing cars. Just wait until they have to deal with ride-sharing helicopters landing who-knows-where.


#3

How many test flights will we see before one of these actually goes anywhere, seems to me that is all we ever see and then nothing is ever heard from them ever again. i’m not convinced that most shots were’nt taken with a simple DJI drone


#4

It’s hard and expensive to get a pilot’s license (for very good reasons), so things like this can never take off as a way to get to work for more than a tiny number of people. It’s a hobby aircraft. Not as versatile or as useful as (for example) a piper cub, lacking military applications, it’s got a tiny market of people with pilot licenses who want to own a nifty little plane. Big companies don’t get into making planes like this because the market isn’t big enough. Little passion based startups invent the plane, build prototypes, and then either founder on the cost of actually manufacturing them for sale, or they manage to build a few thousand of them, discover that that’s as many as they will ever really be able to sell, and go out of business.


#5

It’s potentially a solution for those who don’t want to pay taxes for roads but also don’t want to live in their office building. 100 km isn’t quite enough, though, to get from up the Hudson to the roof pad on Wall Street.


#6

I agree with your point about a pilot license being difficult to obtain, but did you miss the part where they said it’s autonomous?


#7

It’s a stretch in and of itself to call Uber “ride-sharing.” You have to do some real gymnastics to say that it’s not a taxi service.


#8

Yes, I did miss that. Now that I’ve watched the video, I can say that their startup is utterly doomed.

1, they have to perfect autonomous flying. While in some ways it’s less impossible than autonomous driving, the failure modes are a lot more fatal. With seat belts and airbags and properly designed crumple zones, you can survive a car crash on the freeway. Short of an ejection seat, there’s no way you will survive the crash of your autonomous flying car. They have to make it utterly safe and utterly foolproof, not just for fair weather, but for bad weather. Not just for the passenger, but for people on the ground who might be hurt if the thing goes down.

And they aren’t going to get a lot of repeat customers if the failure mode is “you survive because the ejection seat gets you out, but your expensive flying car is a total loss, and oh, your neighbour. is suing you for repairs to his roof where your flying car made a hole in it when it crashed.”

2, In addition to all that, to get past the pilot program stage, they also have to satisfy government regulators in New Zealand, and to get traction outside NZ, they’re going to need to do the same to regulators in every country they try to sell in. Which will take years and you can bet that the regulators will not be at all amenable to letting them get what they want unless they utterly nail #1. And considering the number of morons in the world, the regulators will also probably require that it not have a manual piloting mode at all.

3, Then they have to sell it to people. They’re flying enthusiasts and computer geeks, so they probably don’t realize just how hard this is going to be. Even if they nail #1 and get the government to sign off on #2, people are not going to be very willing to trust a robot aerocar. “The computer at the bank keeps making mistakes on my credit card statement, and yet you expect me to entrust my life to a computer flying this tiny little airplane that doesn’t even have manual controls? How the heck am I supposed to intervene when (not if) your robot computer pilot gets confused and decides to fly straight into the side of a hill?!”

4, Finally, they have to do all that without making the resulting vehicle too fucking expensive, and without adding too much to the dead weight. For battery powered flight, every ounce that isn’t batteries or aerodynamic surface has to justify its existence. Add in that ejection seat and your maximum range drops. Add in cargo space for groceries or more than 1 passenger and your range drops. Add in regulator mandated safety gear (running lights, fire extinguishers, etc, etc) and your range drops. It’s like being pecked to death by ducks (humourless, utterly uncompromising physics ducks). I really very much doubt they will be able to mass produce an approved version of their prototype that meets their range target. And every mile you shave off the range is another group of potential customers you lose.

So, no, don’t think this product concept is going to fly very far in the real world.


#9

Windlord would have been a great name for this rollout.


#10

While I don’t disagree with your ultimate conclusion, it should be noted that there is no intention for private ownership of these vehicles in the way that we own cars today. There’s a reason they call them taxis, they are intended to be fleet vehicles owned and operated by taxi companies much in the same way people assume autonomous cars will work.


#11

does this include joy-rides


#12

This company is needing to tackle these problems from the top down.

But drones have already carved out niche markets, solving smaller problems along the way, and in years drone usage and markets are going to obviously keep expanding. It’s innevitable there will be some kind of drone taxi service one day. Is this company going to solve it all? Probably not, but someone will. Why not them?


#13

It’s unlikely to have ejection seats. It seems very likely it’ll have a full-frame ballistic parachute, like the ones used on several models of light aircraft.

You’re right that regulation is going to be difficult for them. I assume they’re working in New Zealand because they’ve made a deal with the government there to allow them to test their service there. However, I imagine that if they can be successful in New Zealand, their chances of getting regulatory approval in other places increases.

I’m sure there are people who will refuse to fly in these things, but imagine there will be a lot of people who will be quite happy to justify flying in one by reassuring themselves that jumbo jets fly themselves nowadays, and isn’t this basically just the same thing?

I think there’s no doubt these machines will be expensive, but I also imagine their main customers at first are going to be people for whom that’ll be a business expense. The trips they will be doing are going to be fairly short hops over areas that are very congested for ground traffic. 20 minutes to get from San Francisco to Mountain View, rather than two hours? It doesn’t seem out of the question that there would be people prepared to pay $150 or $200 for that.


#14

But can it handle that south island west coast rain?
I mean, if it can… then good on them, NZ needs a transport upgrade.


#15

Yes, I agree it is a misnomer. I’ve railed against it myself, but for better or worse, that is what it’s now called.


#16

No technical information on their website at all, just pretty pictures and blurb.

And their CEO is the man who gave the world Google Glass.

Pass.


#17

I’ve seen it called a “ride-hailing” service


#18

It’s kind of amusing to see people who worked in almost completely unregulated tech industries think it’s “easy” to do something like this (or infrastructure) because they have no clue how difficult the regulatory issues are in this new area.
It seems like the market for these is as a service, which creates its own raft of additional issues. The costs of use, however they build it, are going to be substantial. Vehicle prices aside, there’s going to be higher energy costs than ground transport, there are going to be necessary maintenance costs, whatever infrastructure (landing pads, air traffic control) they’ll need to take on to make it happen, insurance, etc. I don’t see this ever being anything but short-range travel (i.e. local commutes) for the super-wealthy, who want to avoid having to deal with the riffraff and roads. (The wealthy will just feel all-the-more justified in not paying taxes for road infrastructure they “don’t use,” as a result.)


#19

Celebrity endorsements are rolling in!

John Denver, Buddy Holly, Roberto Clemente, Roy Halladay, Ameila Earhart…


#20

If you expect to use a roof pad in a big city, vehicles like this won’t be a practical way to commute. There just won’t be the space for them to operate.