Self-flying taxis to take to the skies of Dubai

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Come July, autonomous flying taxis likely will be seen flying over Dubai’s skyline.

Shortly after Tesla Motors Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk had regaled his audience at the World Government Summit in Dubai with stories about cyborgs and self-driving technology that will put a large chunk of the world’s workforce out of a job, Dubai’s Roads and Transportation Agency revealed drone taxis were taking to the skies.

The taxis will be the Chinese-made, 500-pound Ehang 184 electric drone, capable of taking one passenger weighing no more than 220 pounds at a top speed of 100 miles per hour for a maximum of 31 miles. Reports have been conflicting as to what degree the drones will be autonomous, with some reports stating they will be fully autonomous, and others saying officials will have a hand in its flight from a command center on the ground.

Flying taxis have for a long time been a thing of science fiction, but also a potential solution to the problem of terra firma traffic congestion. Last year Airbus said it was building its first self-flying vehicle, with a prototype to be released soon and a working fleet to be ready within a decade.

Prior to that, Uber Technologies Inc. had said traffic congestion would be a thing of the past given that it was presently working on producing a fleet of rather spectacular-looking self-driving cars. It also said we would have to wait a decade to see the vertical takeoff and landing vehicles in action.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, has said that he wants it to be “the smartest city in the world.” He has pledged that by 2030, 25 percent of all Dubai transportation journeys will be driverless. Last year Hyperloop One announced that it would build a first-of-its-kind hyperloop system from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. The 99-mile trips would take only 12 minutes.