Passenger drone being tested in Nevada
The flying machine could be used as a taxi, although it can only carry one passenger at a time
A passenger drone showcased at CES in January has been approved for trials in Nevada and if these are successful, it could be the start of autonomous taxis taking to the skies.
The 184 drone developed by Chinese company EHang was granted permission by the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems to partake in test flights above the state, but it hasn't been revealed whether initial test flights will be transporting passengers. The institute has even offered to help the drone get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to help the idea get off the ground (excuse the pun).
However, the idea of an autonomous taxi has unsurprisingly raised some eyebrows, because should the machine go wrong, the controls cannot be taken over by the passenger. However, the 184 drone is fitted with a safety system that would force it to land in the nearest available area, quashing some suggestions it would simply crash land.
Other critics think it will be some time before commercial taxi drones will have a place in everyday life though and these trials don't necessarily mean we'll instantly see drones flying passengers around the skies as per sci-fi films.
"Drones will first have to prove their worth in less people-facing roles such as deliveries of small cargo," Douglas McNeill, a senior analyst at consultancy Macquarie told the BBC. "The other question is whether people will be willing to fly in a pilotless aircraft, and that seems like a big leap.
"People are sensitive to reduced journey times, and if drones could do that it would be a big plus - but I'm not sure that they can. Consumers are led by what regulators say are safe. And if they say these drones are safe, people might be more willing."
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