Urban Air Mobility Raises Safety Concerns.

Author:Harper, Jon

It's a commuter's fantasy to have their vehicle take flight and zoom over others stuck in rush hour traffic. The private sector and government agencies are working to make that flying car scenario possible, but a number of safety issues need to be addressed to make sure passengers don't become casualties, experts say.

The Air Force's acquisition, technology and logistics chief is among those who dream of taking flight to avoid Beltway gridlock.

"It would just be really nice at some point in this job or after it to get to fly somewhere as opposed to driving," Assistant Secretary Will Roper told reporters. Roper is the mastermind behind the service's Agility Prime initiative, which aims to help create a new advanced air mobility industry for both the commercial and defense sectors.

Initially, users might have to go to designated pick-up points similar to taxi stands to catch a ride, but eventually people might have access to them from home, he said. "We just go outside and fly someplace."

Davis Hackenberg, advanced air mobility mission manager at NASA, expects the transportation mode to be a viable option for a wide range of consumers, not just the wealthy, as their usage increases.

"The price point for urban air mobility ... should go down to something that is affordable to somebody like me that's a government employee, for instance, a middle-class person," he said during the Agility Prime Launch Week. "To get from an airport to my meeting downtown, or maybe even from home to my meeting downtown, I could actually go spend that 40 or 50 bucks and fly to work."

However, citizens will need to be comfortable with the technology before flying cars become a part of everyday life. Government agencies are trying to work through a number of issues to make that type of transportation safe so riders don't end up in a fiery crash.

"As is true for any new transportation innovation, safety and public acceptance will be key to full development and deployment," Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said. "Legitimate public concerns about safety, security and privacy need to be addressed because without public acceptance, commercialization won't be possible. So safety, which is my top priority, must be a major priority for developers as well."

The Federal Aviation Administration is gaining extensive experience integrating new technologies such as drones and reusable rockets safely into the national...

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