Report Hints Porsche Might Have a Passenger Drone in the Works

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There are companies working on flying cars, and there are those developing flying cars that are autonomous. The latter are referred to as drones, though they’re capable of ferrying passengers. Many see flying passenger drones as the future of urban mobility, and rumor has it that Porsche has one in the works.

While the German automaker hasn’t confirmed or offered much by way of details, a German automotive industry news site Automobilwoche claims the company is close to releasing the first design sketches. Porsche has yet to comment on the report, but the company’s sales director, Detlev von Platen, supposedly hinted at the possibility.

“It would take three and a half minutes to fly the plane,” von Platen told Automobilwoche, referring to how long it would take him to fly a passenger drone from Porsche’s Zuffenhausen manufacturing plant to Stuttgart Airport. A typical drive would take him “at least half an hour.”

Like most other passenger drone concepts, Porsche’s would supposedly let passengers have some control over the vehicle — but most of the flying would be automated. In practical terms, that means drivers-turned-pilots wouldn’t need to have a pilot’s license.

Beyond that, we don’t know too much about the potential project — though, given similar projects currently in development, we can imagine the possibilities. Several other companies around the globe have autonomous aerial vehicle (AAV) concepts and flying taxi services in the works, including the EHang 184 from a Chinese company of the same name. The company recently showed footages of the AAV in action. There’s also a Detroit-based startup, AirSpaceX, which claims it will have a working autonomous flying taxi by 2026.

In general, many veteran carmakers are staking a claim in the AAV business: Daimler, the parent company for Mercedez-Benz, teamed up with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) maker Volocopter. The latter’s work includes those flying taxis recently tested in Dubai. Volvo parent company Geely, meanwhile, bought flying car company Terrafugia last November 2017.

If the pressure of the other company’s projects has put the heat on Porsche to get in the game, we may see those designs for a passenger drone soon. In the meantime, Volkswagen, Porsche’s parent company, has already been working with Airbus on a Pop.Up car-drone hybrid, through its design and engineering arm, Italdesign.

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EHang Shows Off Passenger Drone’s Flight Successes

EHang this week released footage of the latest test flights of its EHang 184 personal Autonomous Aerial Vehicle. The EHang 184 can transport a single person at up to 130kph in Force 7 typhoon conditions, the company said. EHang plans to further improve the passenger experience and add an optional manual control so passengers with piloting experience can operate the AAV manually. It also has developed and tested a two-seater craft that can carry up to 280kg. In 2017, EHang was granted AS9100C certification.
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EHANG passenger drone boasts successful manned test flights

the ehang 184, after successful test flights

EHANG has released footage and further details of successful manned test flights of the EHang 184 passenger drone. 

Your average CEO doesn’t put their money where their mouth is to quite the same extent as EHANG’s Huazhi Hu. No doubt his counterparts at Apple and Tesla try out new products on a regular basis. They might even take them home. But sitting in your company’s passenger drone on one of its maiden flight tests is a different matter.

Other test flight passengers have included the deputy mayor of Guangzhou and more than 150 technical engineers. In total, the Chinese drone manufacturer has conducted thousands of manned flights to date. 

Read more: Boeing engineers unveil heavy-lifting cargo drone

Prioritising safety

The promise of passenger drones has moved from science fiction to reality in recent years. And with heavy investment from the likes of Intel and Boeing, competition is fierce.

EHANG was founded in 2014, and although the company has released a number of smaller autonomous models designed for photography, the people-carrying 184 has always been the one to capture the imagination and make headlines.

The 184, claims EHANG, can take off, land, and navigate autonomously. Human pilots are on hand – albeit remotely – should anything go wrong during a flight.

According to a statement from the company, the 184 has completed a vertical climbing test, reaching a height of 300m, and a loaded test flight carrying approximately 230 kg. The passenger drone has also successfully completed missions spanning 15 km and hit speeds of 130 km/h.

CEO Hu, said “Performing manned test flights enables us to demonstrate the safety and stability of our vehicles.

“What we’re doing isn’t an extreme sport, so the safety of each passenger always comes first. Now that we’ve successfully tested the EHang 184, I’m really excited to see what the future holds for us in terms of air mobility.”

Read more: Airbus and Italdesign unveil modular smart city transport

Looking ahead

The question remains whether EHANG’s 184 will be ever take off as part of an on-demand public transport system – such as the one planned for Dubai – or if it will become an exclusive toy for the wealthy. In the short term, at least, the latter seems more probable.

The electric 184 and passenger drones like it remain far beyond the boundaries of what current legislation in Europe and North America has been developed for. Proving safety and reliability will be key; a single serious accident would put an end to the dreams of passenger drone advocates – at least in the near future.

“This is a step-by-step process,” said Hu, “and at EHANG, we have our own roadmap. When it comes to the development and application of any transformative technology, first the technological innovation makes an impact, then the relevant policies are created and developed. This goes on to push further development of the industry.”

But there’s no doubt that EHANG is making progress. Test flights aside, last year the company was granted the AS9100C certification – a quality management system recognised globally in the aerospace industry. It is also working closely with the Civil Aviation Administration of China to keep its developments in line with changing regulations.

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Electric, rotary-wing drones have multiple points of failure, and so have everything to prove in commercial applications. But in the short to medium term, the obstacles in the way of passenger drones and other autonomous vehicles are more legislative than technical, in the West at least. And they have a significant social impact too: 3.4 million people work as drivers in the US alone. Drone cargo flights are a more immediate prospect in the UK, Europe, and the US. However, in countries such as UAE, China, and Japan, passenger drones may be adopted more quickly as they seek to gain a technological edge – come what may.

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Ehang proves its passenger drones are the real deal in new flight footage


Chinese drone maker Ehang wowed visitors at CES 2016 when it brought along a prototype of its passenger drone; however, it didn’t have much else to show at the time. Now, it’s released footage of the 184 in flight with a passenger for the first time, with the company’s CEO on board. Following ‘1000 tests’, Ehang took to YouTube to show off the drone in action with CEO Huazhi Hu, as well as other senior management, and deputy mayor of the Chinese city of Guangzhou, where the trials took place. Besides talking up the 184’s ease of use, Hu also…

This story continues at The Next Web
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How Waymo is designing the self-driving car passenger experience to feel convenient and safe

Here’s a sense of today’s self-driving ride.

As Waymo and its many rivals prepare to roll out driverless cars to consumers, one of their challenges has been to design an experience for riders that feels both convenient and safe.

For a sense of the state of the art, it’s worth flipping through this new 43-page safety report (pdf) from Waymo, the self-driving tech subsidiary of Google’s parent Alphabet. In April, the company announced it would be testing a fleet of 600 Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Phoenix, Ariz. Waymo is also operating its cars — which include 70 Lexus SUVs — on public roads in Washington, Texas, and California.

Getting a ride and starting off

Waymo’s test cars are being run as an on-demand service, which riders can hail through a mobile app. After getting seated, passengers start the ride by pressing a “start ride” button, either within the app or on an in-car display. It’s a small but sensible nuance that gives passengers some level of control over the ride, allowing them to ensure they’re settled and ready before the driverless car starts moving.

Seeing what the car sees

During the course of the ride, the in-car display will show passengers pertinent information like their route and expected time of arrival. But it will also show them what the car is seeing with its visual system, including its camera and other sensors like lidar and radar. This is designed to be comforting and educational — so “riders can understand what the vehicle is perceiving and responding to, and be confident in the vehicle’s capabilities.”

An illustration of Alphabet’s self-driving cars. 	Waymo

Controlling the ride

The whole point of a self-driving car is that it drives itself. But Waymo has outfitted its cars with a “pull over” button, which identifies the first safe place to pull over so riders can exit. Another button can reach Waymo’s rider support team to answer questions or help out.

Handling unsafe conditions or an accident

The car will find a way to come to a safe stop if it detects unsafe driving conditions. In the rare occurrence of an accident, the car will also communicate instructions using audio and visual cues.

Accessibility

Autonomous vehicles hold a great deal of promise for people with disabilities. So Alphabet is designing its cars with that in mind. For example, Waymo is taking advantage of accessibility features built into Android and iOS that replace visual controls with speech controls. In addition to labeling the “start ride” and other buttons with Braille, Alphabet is experimenting with so-called “wayfinding” features, which help visually impaired passengers find their cars by making a guiding sound.

The big picture

When designing the human-car interface and experience, Waymo says it has four main goals:

  • Giving passengers the information they need for a seamless trip.
  • Helping passengers anticipate what’s next.
  • Proactively communicating the vehicle’s response to events on the road.
  • Helping passengers engage safely with the vehicle.

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Cincinnati Airport uses Bliptrack to improve passenger wait times

Cincinnati Airport uses Bliptrack to improve passenger wait times

Cincinnati Airport in Kentucky is using connected technology from BlipTrack in a bid to deal with passenger demand and improve wait times.

With almost seven million passengers passing through this international transport hub last year, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) is using live data to identify delays at the security checkpoint and allocate staff and resources better.

To do this, it’s been using BlipTrack technology from Blip Systems, allowing it to process passengers in more efficient ways. Just last year, the airport achieved its best-ever ranking in its 21-year history in the US Department of Transportation airfare report.

Read more: Billund Airport invests in IoT system to improve passenger experience

Tech pioneer

CVG is always looking to improve, and it’s been using sophisticated technology for years. In 2014, CA implemented BlipTrack queue and flow technology at its checkpoints.

It was the first American airport to implement this technology, which allows staff to measure, understand and improve the traveler experience, and to better plan and allocate crucial resources.

After one year of use, the airport announced that the data gathered had helped it reduced its security line wait times by one third. A 2015 report by Purdue University found that standard wait times had dropped by nearly over four minutes from 13.2 minutes in 2011 to 8.9 minutes.

Read more: New Zealand Air Force recruits Blip Systems for traffic management project

Continuing journey

Since originally enabling this technology, Cincinnati Airport has added new features to the solution to help it continue streamlining operations further and improving the passenger experience.

For instance, it’s now using passenger-facing wait time monitors and CVGairport.com interfaces to provide immediate wait-time status, easing natural travel anxieties associated with queuing for passengers.

In addition, the airport has established what it calls “service level agreement (SLA)-like standards for self-accountability”, helping it to stick to its goal of wait times below 15 minutes. 

Read more: Birmingham Airport uses IoT to monitor queues and keep passengers happy

Boosting efficiencies

Stephen Saunders, senior manager of terminal operations at CVG, explained how the technology works: “We have added a new feature that allows us to understand the pattern of how lanes are being utilized throughout the day.

“This helps us better understand TSA’s lane utilization on any given day. Our future goal is to pair this information with passenger show-up profiles and wait-time inputs to complete a story of how the check point is operating as a whole, and help the TSA develop lane open/close plans based on predicted throughputs.”

He added that the airport, which serves the greater Cincinnati area, has been working with partners to get the most out of this technology. “We have used tangible data to work with our partners at TSA to adjust officer start time,” said Saunders.

“We previously noticed a high spike in queue waits during our heaviest early bank of morning flights, levelling off after about 7:30am. We collectively identified TSA schedules were misaligned with the flight schedules.”

Read more: Smart city of Aarhus uses Bluetooth sensors to improve traffic flows

The future is here

Candace McGraw, CEO at CVG, is a big believer in this innovation.  “Our use of the technology has proven quite successful,” she said.

“It has enabled CVG to continue our close collaboration with TSA to ensure that the passenger experience is one that enhances the journey experience, not detracts from it. Our significant investments in our facilities and the solution ensures we use them as as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

Today, more than 25 airports from around the world are using technology from Bliptrack. They include JFK, San Diego, Copenhagen, Dublin, Oslo, Manchester and Brussels airports.

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Could Passenger Drones Be the Future of Personal Transportation?

The autonomous Ehang 184 drone could eventually transport passengers up to 20 miles at a time.  Could passenger drones be the future of personal transportation?

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