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Airbus to test driverless 'flying taxis' in 2017

Artist’s impression of the multipropeller CityAirbus vehicle
Artist’s impression of the multipropeller CityAirbus vehicle

Aerospace giant Airbus is designing a flying driverless taxi that you can summon via an app on your smartphone.

On its website, in an article titled "Future of urban mobility: My kind of flyover" Airbus said the first vehicle prototype could be built and tested as soon as end of next year as part of a project known as "Vahana".

"Many of the technologies needed, such as batteries, motors and avionics are most of the way there," explained Airbus project executive Rodin Lyasoff in the article published in the company's online magazine Wednesday.

Airbus believes the global demand for the "flying cars" will run in to millions of vehicles and that demand will help reduce development costs.

"In as little as 10 years, we could have products on the market that revolutionize urban travel for millions of people," said Lyasoff.

Lyasoff said one major challenge will be to secure reliable technology to ensure the "autonomous taxis" can sense and avoid other objects.

And it seems the futuristic project has backing from the top of the Airbus tree.

"I'm no big fan of Star Wars, but it's not crazy to imagine that one day our big cities will have flying cars making their way along roads in the sky," Airtbus chief executive Tom Enders was quoted in the article.

"In a not too distant future, we'll use our smartphones to book a fully automated flying taxi that will land outside our front door – without any pilot."

In the same piece, Airbus said it was also developing a drone-like helicopter which could ferry multiple passengers around a city.

It said CityAirbus had been in development for two years by French and German engineers.

CityAirbus is slated to have a pilot on board at first but would switch to full autonomous operations when the technology developed.