[CES 2019] Back to the future with ‘flying cars’ on horizon


[THE INVESTOR] LAS VEGAS -- When it comes to future mobility, autonomous vehicles typically take the spotlight, as global automakers and tech companies compete to bring self-driving cars into the mainstream.


Further stretching the limits of transport, another mobility technology, once considered the realm of science fiction, is inching closer to reality: “flying cars.” 




 

 

[2019 CES] CES는 ‘AI 모터쇼..."자율주행 엔터테인먼트카, 플라잉카 선보여"


     8~11일(현지시간) 미국 라스베이거스에서 열리는 세계 최대 규모의 정보기술(IT) 박람회인 ‘CES(Consumer Electronics Show) 2019’는 소프트웨어 중심의 첨단 자동차 기술이 대거 선보이는 첫 ‘인공지능(AI) 모터쇼’라는 평가가 나온다. 


올해도 BMW와 아우디, 포드, 폴크스바겐, 테슬라, 제너럴모터스(GM), 혼다, 닛산, 현대·기아차 등 주요 자동차 회사들은 최신 자동차 기술을 전시한다. 자동차 관련 기업까지 더하면 660여 개 기업이 이번 CES 2019에 참여할 예정이다.


자동차가 기존의 내연기관을 탈피하고 전기차, 자율주행차 등으로 전자제품화되면서 CES 

현장에서도 새로운 주인공으로 주목을 받고 있다.




폴크스바겐은 독일의 항공우주기업 에어버스와 함께 2인승 ‘플라잉카’를 선보인다. 평소에는 바퀴로 도로 위를 달리다가 4개의 프로펠러가 달린 비행 모듈을 사용하면 수직 이착륙이 가능해 단거리를 비행할 수 있다. 2020년대 중반 자율주행 플라잉 택시를 상용화하겠다고 밝힌 미국의 헬리콥터 제조사인 벨 헬리콥터도 플라잉카로 전시 부스를 차렸다. 


아우디는 미국의 디즈니와 함께 창문을 스크린 화면으로 바꿔 영화를 상영하는 등 엔터테인먼트 자율주행차의 미래를 논의하는 컨퍼런스를 개최한다. 자율주행차에서는 이동 중 사람이 도로나 주변을 살필 필요가 없으므로 차 안을 영화관처럼 꾸며 영화를 보거나 가상현실(VR) 게임을 즐길 수 있을 것으로 기대를 모은다. 포드와 GM은 자율주행차를 활용한 카풀 서비스를 소개한다.

 

IT 기업도 앞다퉈 자율주행차 소프트웨어 전시에 나선다. 제프 베조스가 이끄는 아마존은 자사의 AI인 ‘알렉사’로 자동차를 제어하는 기술을 선보인다. 이번에 처음으로 CES에 참가하는 네이버는 네이버랩스가 개발한 자율주행차 내비게이션 솔루션 ‘하이브리드 HD 맵’과 모바일 맵핑 시스템 ‘R1’, 운전자보조 시스템 ‘ADAS(첨단운전자보조시스템)’ 등을 전시할 예정이다.


 

사진은 네이버가 이번 전시회에 소개하는 '브레인리스 로봇'. 네이버는 지난 2017년 

처음 선보인 로봇팔 '앰비덱스'를 퀄컴과 협력해 5G 이동통신 기술을 적용했다.


자율주행차 카풀 서비스, 5세대(5G) 이동통신망을 이용한 커넥티드카, 친환경 무인 대중교통과 관련 표준기술 등이 논의될 예정이다. CES를 주최하는 전미기술협회 스티브 쾨닉 부사장은 “이번 CES는 AI, 자율주행차, 사물인터넷(IoT) 등 데이터 중심 시대로 넘어가는 상징적인 행사가 될 것”이라고 말했다.

송경은 기자 kyungeun@donga.com 동아사이언스


edited by kcontents




A number of flying car prototypes and designs will be featured at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that kicks off on Jan. 8. Airborne vehicles were a hot topic of interest at the CES “Future Mobility” track sessions held prior to the show’s official launch.


At CES 2019, automakers and startups will provide the public a glimpse of what flying cars will look and feel like, with many car-drone hybrids.


One such firm is Netherlands-based Pal-V, which is offering CES visitors a chance to experience a “virtual flight” in what it claims is the world’s first-ever commercial flying car -- the Pal-V Liberty. 


According to the Dutch company, the vehicle passed a drive and flight test program in 2012 to prove that the Pal-V Liberty is technically feasible and certifiable within the existing regulatory framework. It is currently receiving reservations for the Pal-V Liberty limited editions.


“The challenge has always been to develop a commercially viable flying car not simply a futuristic concept,” Pal-V CEO Robert Dingemanse said in a statement. “The journey is much more challenging than simply designing a flying car since the regulatory framework demands safety of each and every manufacturer.”




Similarly, NFT, an aviation technology startup based in Israel and California, is developing a “fly and drive” vehicle with electric propulsion and an extended range generator that can take off and land vertically. It also has a booth at the trade show. 


In building its flying car model, NFT is designing both hardware and software solutions while partnering with original equipment manufacturers to mass produce its vehicles.


Globally, many big and small companies are pursuing the development of flying cars. They include global ridesharing giant Uber Technologies, aircraft makers Airbus and Boeing as well as China’s Terrafugia. Opener and KittyHawk are also high-profile flying car startups backed by Google co-founder Larry Page.


But what’s the difference between a helicopter and a flying car? The biggest difference is that airborne cars are quieter and would not require a helipad to land, making them far more usable in real life. 


When can we start flying in cars?




Does this mean we’re going to be seeing flying cars zipping around the skies in the near future?  


For now, probably not, according to mobility experts at CES who emphasized the vast amount of regulatory and technical coordination that is needed to ensure the safety, efficiency and affordability of flying cars. But the technology is definitely a “next” in future mobility that will eventually happen down the road, they said.



According to Thomas Prevot, director of engineering and aerospace systems at Uber, scalability and safety are issues that must be fully addressed before flying cars can go commercial. 




“The key to viability is actually operating on a real scale, and making (flying cars) accessible and affordable to anyone. Or else it won’t relieve any kind of congestion (on the roads, as is hoped),” he said during a CES-hosted discussion on future mobility.


The US ride-hailing giant is currently pursuing a flying car project dubbed Elevate, with aims to launch a pilot electric air taxi service by 2020 and begin commercial operations in 2023. 


Under the envisioned service, Uber’s air taxis would pick up and drop off passengers at designated roofs of buildings, opening a new era of mobility for urban commuters. 


While the relevant technology may be nearing completion, building the appropriate ecosystem for flying cars will take some time as a system of uninterrupted communication between aviation regulators, drivers and sensors on airborne vehicles must be achieved before anything can go commercial, he noted.


“It’s a large network on which all these vehicles are operating. It’s a very complex orchestration act to make sure that the vehicles and pilot are all in the right places, charging stations are adequately located, and riders are matched properly,” the Uber executive said.




A system of cooperative surveillance is also critical to making projects like Uber’s viable, noted David Rottblatt, director of business development at EmbraerX, a Brazilian aircraft developer currently working with Uber on flying cars. 


“When we think about the paradigm of aircraft control, cities aren’t that used to seeing commercial operations on a scale that companies like Uber are expecting,” he said.


For instance, if a flying car is traveling between 60 and 600 meters above ground, this could have implications on how well radar can keep track of all vehicles in the air. Autonomous data sharing is another consideration, as the entry of flying cars into the airspace will create an unprecedented complexity in air traffic that must be carefully managed, he said.


On the bright side, there is already a stable infrastructure for airborne travel, such as routes for helicopters, that can be leveraged for flying cars as well. And for this reason, some say air taxis could become a reality sooner than is expected.


According to a recent report published by Deloitte, the introduction of flying cars and passenger drones will add an “entirely new dimension to an already complex landscape (in the urban mobility space).”


However, the amount of impact that flying cars will have on current mobility systems is yet to be seen, the report points out.




“For passenger drones and flying cars to be widely accepted, they would likely have to be both ubiquitous and as versatile as an automobile -- people should be able to fly the vehicle to a store or take it to the beach, and it should be able to cover longer distances safely,” it said. 


By Sohn Ji-young/The Korea Herald (jys@heraldcorp.com) 


 

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