A brief overview of flying taxis

This was written by the executive director of the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute for Research and Education, and it answers at least one of my questions about our flying taxi future.

In the near term, once eVTOLs are certified to fly as commercial operations, they are likely to serve specific, high-demand routes that bypass road traffic. An example is United Airlines’ plan to test Archer’s eVTOLs on short hops from Chicago to O’Hare International Airport and Manhattan to Newark Liberty International Airport.

While some applications initially might be restricted to military or emergency use, the goal of the industry is widespread civil adoption, marking a significant step toward a future of cleaner urban mobility.


Establishing a “4D highways in the sky” will require comprehensive rules that encompass everything from vehicle safety to air traffic management. For the time being, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is requiring that air taxis include pilots serving in a traditional role. This underscores the transitional phase of integrating these vehicles into airspace, highlighting the gap between current capabilities and the vision of fully autonomous flights.

The journey toward autonomous urban air travel is fraught with more complexities, including the establishment of standards for vehicle operation, pilot certification and air traffic control. While eVTOLs have flown hundreds of test flights, there have also been safety concerns after prominent crashes involving propeller blades failing on one in 2022 and the crash of another in 2023. Both were being flown remotely at the time.

The question of who will manage these new airways remains an open discussion – national aviation authorities such as the FAA, state agencies, local municipalities or some combination thereof.

See here for my past blogging on this topic. One question this answers for me is what the service will actually look like, at least in the near term. We may call these things “taxis”, but they’re not going to pick you up at your home or office, and they’re not going to drop you off wherever you want. You will have to go to a designated location to get on, and it will only take you to one or two pre-determined locations, mostly airports in the beginning. (The links about the Archer service in the first paragraph made this clear.) I figured this had to be the case just because it wouldn’t be possible for these things to land except at places that can handle them, which is to say places that could also handle a helicopter. Among other things, this will have an effect on both the cost of the trip – you have to get yourself to the takeoff location, which will either involve a ride or a parking lot – as well as the time of the trip, since you now have two separate pieces to your journey to the airport. Just something to think about, that’s all I’m saying.

The other thing is the safety and regulation of these things. The thought of a flying taxi, or just some pieces of one, falling out of the sky ought to be at least a little terrifying. We would like to minimize the chances of it happening. And who gets to set the rules for where and when these things can operate, and who can operate them, and so forth? If Joby or Archer or whoever wants to make like Uber and just set up shop in Houston, do we have any say over that or are we completely at the mercy of the feds and the Legislature? This doesn’t answer that question, it just points it out in a way I haven’t seen in other writing. We’re expected to get some form of these things here for the FIFA World Cup in 2026. I sure hope Mayor Whitmire has a close personal relationship with whoever will have authority over this, because we’re gonna need it.

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2 Responses to A brief overview of flying taxis

  1. David Fagan says:

    On this day in 2013 in the late morning there was a fire at The Southwest Inn that claimed 4 lives that day, and another, Captain Bill Dowling, a couple of years later.

    Gone, but not forgotten.

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    I remember the big fire at the Southwest Inn, right near 59 and Greenbriar, if I remember correctly. There was a collapse. HFD does an interior fire fight most of the time, which is more dangerous for the fire fighters.

    The flying taxis are going to cause more global warming, and pollution.

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