Flying cars were strictly the stuff of science fiction not long ago, but today there are several automakers working on the technology, typically through partnerships.
Volocopter prototype demonstration at Daimler's headquarters
The latest to join the race is Hyundai which on Monday announced the new Urban Air Mobility division which is headed by Jaiwon Shin, an aeronautics engineer who worked on aviation research and development at NASA for 30 years. His goal at Hyundai is to develop technologies that will enable the company to be a leader in the potentially lucrative flying taxi segment. According to Shin, the segment could be worth $1.5 trillion—yes, with a t—within the next two decades.
Shin's expertise covers a diverse range of areas including airframe, power unit, safety, and air traffic management technologies. Just some of the projects he worked on at NASA included the X-plan programs, electrification of aircraft, air traffic management, and developing urban air mobility solutions.
Cities are expected to grow in coming years coinciding with the growth in the number of jobs that are digital-based. This will only add to congestion which in some of the world's largest cities is already severe. Both governments and private companies see small, electrically powered flying taxi services as a potential solution.
Hyundai hasn't said what specifically it is planning, but the popular solution right now, it seems, is something resembling a multicopter drone big enough to fit at least two adults and with fully autonomous controls. These would travel between major hubs and feature batteries that can be swapped at either end to speed up turnaround times.