A race is on to develop a commercial flying taxi service in time for the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Los Angeles.
Hyundai is the latest company to join a programme launched by ride-hailing company Uber to refine the technology so it would be available in time for Los Angeles 2028. Jose Munoz, the chief executive of Hyundai Motor North America, told media during an Automotive Press Association teleconference that he believes the service will go into operation by 2028, or “maybe earlier”. Uber revealed last year new details about a helicopter-like service it plans to roll out in Los Angeles. The service is tentatively called Uber Air and the company plans to eventually oversee production of 10,000 electric aircraft annually. They are also working in partnership with two aircraft companies, Embraer and Pipistrel Aircraft. With so many vehicles projected to be zipping around the city’s skies, the company is planning to construct “skyports” where passengers can board aircraft en-route to another hub. Architecture firm Gensler has already revealed what these flying taxi stations might actually look like. According to Gensler, the skyports will be distributed throughout Los Angeles at strategic points where passengers can easily access public transportation or shared devices like bikes and scooters. The company claimed the skyports would be quick to build and could be constructed from the ground up or added to an existing structure. Uber has also unveiled renderings of the vehicles themselves, which include four passenger seats and a small storage space for baggage. The company expects the cost of operating a helicopter will be close to $700 (£525/€590) per flight hour, so will initially be available only to customers with large bank balances. But they could help take some of the pressure off “Olympic lanes”, the special highways designed for athletes, dignitaries, sponsors and media to ensure they arrive in time for events and meetings during the Games. The lanes have been fixtures of every Games since Sydney 2000 after Atlanta traffic in 1996 made some athletes late for events. In London during the 2012 Games, drivers and cyclists caught in the Olympic lanes were slapped with a £130 fine ($175/€145), and ambulances were allowed passage only if they were responding to emergency calls. Londoners nicknamed them “Zil lanes”, after the black limousines that filled special road lanes for Communist Party members in the old Soviet Union. Hosting the Olympics in 2028 has already been hailed by chiefs in Los Angeles as an opportunity to fast-track transportation plans. With a reputation as one of the world’s most gridlocked cities, Los Angeles officials were already assessing ways to boost public transit and alternative transportation modes to alleviate pressure on city streets ahead of 2028. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in June 2018 released its “Vision 2028” plan, a strategic vision intended to guide the agency’s overall strategy to improve mobility. This includes ensuring equitable access to high-quality modes, improving average bus travel speeds and reducing maximum wait times. In parallel to that, LA Metro’s Board of Directors approved its “Twenty-Eight by ’28” plan, which identified 28 capital projects to complete in time for the Games. Those projects, which include a variety of road and transit plans in various stages of completion, are worth an estimated $42.9 billion (£32.2 billion/€35.9 million). *By Duncan Mackay, Inside The Games*

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