- The World Economic Forum (WEF) and the City of Los Angeles this week unveiled a roadmap of principles to support the launch of urban air mobility (UAM) like electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft — known as "flying cars" — in cities.
- The "Principles of the Urban Sky" include prioritizing environmental sustainability; measuring and mitigating noise; increasing jobs on the ground and in the sky; being safe and consistent with "conventional aviation operations"; providing equitable access; connecting to existing transport options; and sharing data in a way to help providers respond to demand.
- The principles were developed over the course of nine months by a working group of more than 50 manufacturers, service providers, infrastructure developers, academics, community organizations and government planners, according to WEF. They are intended to be used in Los Angeles and by other cities to "improve quality of life with safer, cleaner, quieter and more accessible transport."
Officials involved in developing the roadmap said the new coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has highlighted the need for a "great reset" in city life, with leaders in Los Angeles determined to design a future transportation system that is equitable and creates new jobs.
"Even in the face of COVID-19 today, our eyes are fixed on the horizon of a reimagined tomorrow, where Urban Air Mobility is a central part of a safe, sustainable, equitable future," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement.
So-called "flying cars" and the like have been the source of much hype and excitement for some years now, especially at technology events like the annual CES conference. And while officials with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were bullish earlier this year about the state of the eVTOL industry, the pandemic has forced many efforts onto the backburner.
There was some movement in late July, however, as New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, R, signed the nation’s first state law regulating flying cars, a move that experts said could be a "stepping stone" in making the technology more widely available.
Los Angeles has long been regarded as fertile ground for eVTOL and other flying car technology, due to its high traffic congestion and its slew of multi-story parking garages and other tall buildings with helipads, earmarked as potential take-off and landing sites for the vehicles. Uber selected the city as one of the first for its Uber Air service, while various architectural firms showed off designs for so-called "skyports" at the Uber Elevate summit last year.
Pledges of eVTOL test flights this year are likely to miss their mark in the face of Uber's significant financial headwinds. These new principles can help cities "build back better," however, as they look to the future of transportation and consider investments in existing options and infrastructure, said Christoph Wolff, head of the "Shaping the Future of Mobility" initiative at WEF.
Those in the flying car industry say taking a forward-looking approach is key, as innovation generally moves faster than policymaking, and it is important to try and get ahead of key trends before they become more widespread.
"How people move around in 10 years will be different from how people move around today," Pam Cohn, chief operating officer of the Urban Air Mobility Division of Hyundai Motor Group, said in a statement released by WEF.