Grab is looking at driver-less flying taxis for the future of e-hailing

The name Grab has become almost synonymous with the word, e-hailing, and they appear keen to solidify their dominance in the market today. From the introduction of services like GrabBike, GrabFood, and GrabPay, Grab has a clear vendetta to create a one-size-fits-all super-app in Southeast Asia. To further demonstrate the kind of ambition that the Singapore-based company has, they’ve now signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a German startup that specialises in aviation: Volocopter.

This is the same company that showed off an actual prototype of a flying taxi at CES 2018, the same company who imagines a future with intercity flying taxis. They look to have a pretty ambitious vision, with co-founder Alexander Zosel saying that the world “is not ready” for Volocopter’s vision of intercity travel.

Interestingly, it appears that Volocopter’s flying taxis use a temporary “VoloPort” landing pad—which will allow for vertical take-offs and landings (just like in the movies). They’ve done test flights in Singapore, Europe, and on their end, it looks like they’re on the track. However, it’s worth noting that there are more obstacles to come for flying taxis as a concept overall. To come to fruition, the entire transport system will have to be overhauled, and the legalities of having autonomous (driver-less!) flying taxis buzzing about—yeah, it’s a serious mountain to climb.

Still, it looks pretty amazing. The Verge reports that the Volocopter’s aim isn’t to provide travel across long distances, like conventional airlines. Instead, they’re looking to have these autonomous taxis flying about the city, ferrying passengers across town.

And the new partnership with Grab is certainly an ambitious move from both parties. Grab is a partner that could be ideal for an ambitious startup, with a presence in Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, as well as its headquarters, Singapore. And Grab, of course, will look to leverage off the aviation expertise that Volocopter will offer—along with the drive of a company who wants to have dozens of VoloPort landing pads across Singapore, along with tens of thousands of daily passengers.

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It’s still unlikely to happen anytime soon—commercial availability of autonomous, electric air taxis operating in the city. As mentioned, the red tape alone would be enough to hold it back for some time. But perhaps with Grab adding to a list of companies who have been looking into flying taxis, the fantasy is one step closer to reality.

[ VIA ]

Editor’s note: this article has been amended for clarity.