So many mobility developments involved scooters and e-bikes in 2018. Might the latest future transportation developments occur at the other end of the mobility spectrum in 2019?
One of the standouts at CES was the unveiling of the Bell Nexus flying taxi. While it'd be easy to chalk this concept up as emblematic of the far-fetched fanfare that CES usually serves, something like this vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft could someday find the skies.
Powered by a hybrid-electric propulsion system that powers six ducted fans, the Nexus has a payload of 1,000 pounds and can carry four passengers and a human pilot. The inclusion of space for a human pilot in the cabin is acknowledgment that the idea of autonomous air taxis carrying humans remains far away, and Bell is pursuing a more near-term path.
Uber is a potential partner for Bell, as it considers how to deploy air taxis. But the longtime helicopter company, known for pushing Chuck Yeager through the sound barrier in the X-1 and, more recently, cooking up the V-22 Osprey, is further exploring partnerships with cities and other partners geared toward operational aspects of delivering air-taxi service. Bell is also exploring test sites.
It's interesting to consider that as urban areas seek to solve traffic congestion problems, two of the most novel solutions involve either drilling down — Elon Musk's Boring Co. — or reaching to the skies in air taxis. Expectations perhaps still should be grounded, but it's not every year at CES that there's a mobility prototype that delivers sizzle and substance.