By the end of this year there may be the first driverless cars on our roads. Not science fiction, but science fact. We already have unmanned planes in our skies – drones. How soon will these be combine to become the 21st century norm?
Imagine a vehicle that you can drive a few miles from home to your local runway. Log in your destination and relinquish control to the auto pilot, which communicates with all other such vehicles in that area – a bit like being in a race using your games console and others in the room/online.
You sit back and relax as you automatically join the queue for take off. You’re informed of your arrival time according to auto-route planning. Maybe you are in a hurry and are willing to pay a premium to queue-jump and route-jump.
Either way the vehicle automatically converts from road to air mode, does fuel and other pre-flight checks and you take off.
Motorway repairs no longer delay you. The preceding train can’t break down and cause a hold up. You’re meeting in person, and travel times are probably comparable to current short-haul flights.
You land at the arrival runway – probably dedicated to arrivals – and convert back to road mode for onward travel to your destination.
No luggage to transfer, and no border checks so long as you’re still within the EU/Schengen area.
Could this happen, and happen safely? The ‘soft’ engineering and political structures are very close. The hard engineering has a little way to go. But 100 years ago powered flight was only just starting, and barely 30 years later the world was getting excited as passenger travel took off post WW2.
If this vision appeals to the masses, then technically it could happen, and sooner than you might expect!