Venture capital firm Founders Fund, which became famous for its motto of “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters,” may soon be getting its wish. The German startup company Lilium is currently developing a five-seater flying taxi, having just received a $90 million round of financing from top technology investors such as Tencent, according to China Daily.
In April of 2017, after having conducted successful tests with a two-seater jet, Lilium announced its plans of developing a five-seater flying taxi, supposedly capable of hovering through the air like drones. What’s even more impressive is that the company claims its upcoming flying taxi is capable of flying through the air like conventional aircraft, which would allow it to fly five or six times the distance of drones.
For example, according to Lilium, a 20-kilometer flight from the Manhattan borough of New York City to JFK Airport would take as little as five minutes.
If this is true, and if the company is successful in realizing its vision, this could help alleviate the horrendous traffic problems we see in major cities all over the world. Furthermore, since this flying taxi is electric, it might be able to help eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels, something that is contributing to devastating environmental pollution.
However, as excited as I am about this new technology, there are numerous challenges that Lilium will have to overcome, one of them being regulatory approvals. Indeed, whenever you begin to challenge the status quo, roadblocks will inevitably appear. But let us suppose that the company is somehow able to leap past bureaucratic red-tape and get its technology approved. In such a scenario, we might see flying cars traversing our landscape. But given how careless many drivers are, a focus on safety is of the utmost importance. Specifically, how will we ensure that disastrous mid-air collisions are avoided? If we plan on using software to power these flying taxis, which I imagine would be the case, how can we account for the fact that software is usually full of bugs?
Despite the possibility that a flying taxi could pose numerous risks to society, I believe we owe it to ourselves to forge ahead with developing this technology, because if we could make it work, the benefits would be tremendous.