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Arriving Shortly: Flying Cabs and Robo-Taxis

As the Internet of Things takes shape, machines are quickly engineered to be fully autonomous. Smart cars or self-driving cars are among the most exciting sectors. Automakers are racing to be the first, and this includes self-flying cars. However, the high cost of autonomous vehicle systems and safety regulations mean we might not see fully-autonomous vehicles before 2025. Or will we?

A little more than 200 years ago, steam engines and locomotives powered the Second Industrial Revolution and made world travel possible. For the first time ever, humans could travel to far-flung places on the other side of the world; places that they’ve only read about in books.

The next and Fourth Industrial Revolution, riding on the network of the Internet of Things (IoT), will create a new dimension of travel. Humans will travel in an entirely different way; not in groups but as individuals. We will have our own private planes, ships, and automobiles; and they will be our captains, pilots, and drivers. All that we will have to do is tell it where to go.

Robo-taxis

One of America’s biggest car manufacturers is planning a large-scale launch of self-driving cars in U.S. cities in 2019 — that’s next year. The company, General Motors Co, painted a vision of a driverless future for its investors in early December 2017, detailing a commercial launch of fully-autonomous taxi fleets in various cities. They are called robo-taxis.

It’s a bold challenge to self-driving industry rivals the likes of Waymo from Alphabet, the mother company of Google, which has just started testing cars in urban environments with ‘no human in the driver’s seat’.

Self-driving services are seen as a hyper-scale revenue generator in the coming IoT years. It is this exponentially-rewarding future business model which is driving the major players into the race for autonomous vehicles. Together with electric car technology, automakers claim that they can reduce the cost of city travel by 40 percent, thus making a huge margin. General Motors itself has said that their future robo-taxi service business could be ‘potentially bigger than their current core business’ as a vehicle manufacturer.

Automakers are investing billions into the self-driving industry. These major players which include Waymo and Uber Technologies Inc are rushing to gain the first-mover advantage. But Uber Technologies Inc is taking the vision a step higher — about 3,000 feet into the air.

Self-flying cars?

Even before fully-autonomous cars have rolled off the plant, companies are already planning self-flying versions. As IoT looms, we’ve seen technological collaborations across different industries. This one is no less exciting: a ride-hailing company with a manufacturer of small commercial jets.

South of the continent in Brazil, the chief executive of the commercial planemaker, which is working with the ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc, announced in December last year that they are likely to launch a fleet of electric aircraft for Uber by the year 2024. Self-flying cars are coming. But as was expected, 2024 is one year later than what the ride-hailing company first forecasted.

The Brazilian engineers picture an electric car with four passengers which vertically-takes off to about 1,000 meters in the air and lands the same way at the destination. Passengers picture every trip to come with an astonishing aerial view. An intra-city flying taxi service could start as early as 2023, the ride-hailing company said.

A driverless (and pilotless) future

These are exciting times. But are autonomous vehicles moving too fast? Or heading too high into the clouds? Apparently not. With a fully-enabled IoT world forecasted in 2020, these machines are highly-possible means of transportations. The demand for ideas is astonishing as we head towards a completely driverless future. IoT and the Fourth Industrial Revolution has already begun to excite automakers, engineers, even us drivers.

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