Bosch is leveraging its expertise in sensor technology to help automakers and tech companies make flying taxis a reality sooner rather than later. The German engineering firm developed a plug-and-play solution that promises to let flying taxis navigate the skies safely, comfortably, and reliably.
The company explained that its research shows the hardware that powers commercial airplanes is too big, too heavy, and too expensive to power flying taxis, which are expected to cost significantly less than a plane or a helicopter. To solve this problem, its engineering department is developing a universal control unit by combining dozens of sensors already widely used in the automotive sector and in the smartphone industry.
The MEMS sensors determine the exact position of the air taxi at all times, which in turn allows it to be controlled more precisely, especially if it’s autonomous. For example, the company noted its acceleration and yaw-rate sensors measure the vehicle’s acceleration and angle of attack. Every modern airplane is fitted with similar technology, but Bosch’s car-derived solution is much smaller and up to 10 times cheaper to implement. The sensors are neatly integrated in a box that manufacturers can simply plug into their system and turn on.
You may not have heard of a MEMS sensor before, but odds are you rely on one on a regular basis. In a smartphone, MEMS sensors notably enable the auto-rotate function that alternates between the landscape and portrait modes. In cars, they power driver-assistance systems like ABS and ESP, and tell the car whether to deploy the airbags in a crash. Even Luke Skywalker benefited from Bosch’s sensor technology. The electronic lightsaber he used in Return of the Jedi was fitted with a Bosch accelerometer.
Flying taxis remain science fiction-like in 2019, but Bosch executives are optimistic that they’ll gradually become a common form of transportation in the coming years, especially in crowded urban centers.
“The first flying taxis are set to take off in major cities starting in 2023, at the latest. Bosch plans to play a leading role in shaping this future market,” said Harald Kröger, the president of the Bosch Automotive Electronics division, in a statement. There’s no word yet on who will purchase Bosch’s technology, but the company added it’s talking to manufacturers from the aerospace and automotive sectors, as well as startups.
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