Tech Industry

Forget self-driving cars -- how about a self-flying taxi?

Airbus wants to begin testing a prototype vehicle by next year, but there is a small snag.

Artist's impression of the multipropeller CityAirbus vehicle.

If you have been patiently waiting for that future of transportation promised by "The Jetsons" more than 50 years ago, one in which we would all fly around our cities' skies without so much as a pilot, Airbus has some good news.

The aerospace giant says on its website that it's designing a self-piloting flying taxi that passengers will be able summon on their smartphone. Airbus said it expects to begin testing its first prototype vehicle by the end of 2017.

"Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there," Rodin Lyasoff, the Airbus executive in charge of the project, said in an article titled "Future of urban mobility: My kind of flyover."

A key goal of the project is alleviating traffic congestion expected to accompany the growing populations of the world's cities. But like the self-driving cars currently undergoing testing, one of the major obstacles to the launch of the self-flying taxi is the lack of a reliable sense-and-avoid technology that allows airborne vehicles to avoid crashing into buildings.

"That's one of the bigger challenges we aim to resolve as early as possible," Lyasoff says.

So for the time being, it looks like Elroy will have to make do with the usual minivan drop-off at school.