They are being touted as a solution for congestion and climate change.
Imagine this: you’re heading out to an event, so you whip out your smartphone and with a few taps of an app summon a pilotless drone to fly you there. It sounds like science fiction, but the chances are that we’re not so many years from this scenario becoming a reality.
Flying taxis are tipped to solve some of the biggest problems currently associated with urban transport. The first of these? Congestion. There’s a great deal more space above a city than within it, so drones could help end the rush hour gridlock. Taking to the skies also saves the effort and expense of mapping out and building physical roads. Less congestion means less time being wasted sitting in traffic. That’s good for people’s wellbeing, as it removes a boring activity and gives them more time to spend doing things they like. Removing onerous commutes is also likely to improve people’s job satisfaction and expand the location from which they’d consider job opportunities. Both of these things are good for productivity (how well we’re all working) and economic growth (how much extra value is being created within an economy).
Another advantage of passenger drones is their green credentials. Transport is currently responsible for a fifth of our total climate-change-causing carbon emissions. There’s a few ways flying cars could reduce this tally. One is the reduction in congestion we mentioned above. But the major thing is that many passenger drones are being designed to run off clean energy sources rather than fossil fuels.
Of course, all these benefits are irrelevant if flying taxes are not taken up en masse by consumers. For that to happen, passenger drones need to be two things: desirable and affordable. Not everyone is convinced they will be either. Hailing a quicker, greener and more efficient version of a regular taxi might sound like a no-brainer, but it is also possible this new technology will squick a lot of people out. After all, we don’t yet know what the safety record of passenger drones will be. Then there’s the 2 in 5 people who have a fear of flying; many of whom may prefer to take the longer route round to save their nerves.
…So where next? Not only do economic ideas shape the institutions and communities we live in, they also influence our own ideas of personal success – be it earning well, achieving a ‘Dr.’ or ‘CEO’ at the front of our label, or living a sustainable life. But what with the speed at which technology is transforming our economies, we can barely predict what ‘s in store for our economies and where we’ll fit in…