In the 1982 sci-fi thriller Blade Runner, the Los Angeles of the future is always rainy and its skies are cluttered with flying cars and floating neon advertisements.
At least some of that imagined world is almost here, but instead of gritty L.A., it will happen in gleaming, blue-skied Dubai, which is about to introduce autonomous drone taxis.
Plans are in place for egg-shaped, four legged, eight-propeller drones capable of ferrying humans weighing up to 220 pounds – plus a small carry-on -- to be operational by July, according to the AP.
The drones – the Chinese-built EHang 184 -- are capable of speeds of up to 100 mph and have a range of 30 miles; they will be monitored by a ground control team and typically fly at about 60 mph.
An official of Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority was quoted by The New York Times as saying that a drone had already plied the skies of the city-state and reportedly flew around the famous “sail-shaped skyscraper,” Burj Al Arab.
Here’s how the drone taxi will work, according to the AP: you climb into a race-car-style seat, strap yourself in, pick a destination from a touch screen and enjoy the ride.
Sounds a bit scary, but the Times reports that the Ehang 184 will land immediately in the safest spot available in the event of a malfunction – at least that’s what the manufacturer says.
The drone taxi is just one of the initiatives that seems to be putting Dubai on the forefront of 21st century consumer transportation. Other plans include using driverless cars for 25 percent of all trips by 2030 and the possible construction of a hyperloop, which the Times describes as “a vacuum-like tube through which vehicle pods hurtle at speeds faster than airliners.” That futuristic system, envisioned by California-based Hyperloop One, would shoot travelers from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai is already home to the longest driverless metro in the world and the busiest airport on the planet.
No word whether there are replicants in its future.