With streets full of potholes, buses going up in flames, and nerve-racking traffic on the ground in the Eternal City, some say the only way is up.
A new electric air taxi could take passengers from Rome Fiumicino Airport to the city center within three years, according to the German company Volocopter, Rome’s airport operator ADR and the transport infrastructure holding company Atlantia.
The project called VoloCity – which is also planned for Paris and Singapore – promises to get people from the airport to the city in 20 minutes with no traffic or emissions and to travel at a top speed of 110 kilometers per hour.
Initially, the taxi will carry the pilot plus one passenger “until the aircraft will fly completely autonomously,” when it can take two passengers, according to a joint press release in which plans are announced.
The Fiumicino project still requires the development of “Vertiports” so that the taxis can take off and land vertically.
In Rome on Thursday, the gleaming white Volocopter air taxi was parked in a place near the Trevi Fountain, where the curious could get on.
“I would have liked that they would have thought more about the railway system before they went to heaven,” said 32-year-old Giuseppe, who refused to give his last name.
Still, he admitted, “This is a leap into the future. We’re talking about going to Mars, so that’s the least we can do.”
Local news reports put the price of the planned 20-minute journey from Fiumicino to the city center at 140 EUR (approx. 12,000 rupees), compared to a taxi which costs 48 EUR (approx. 4,100 rupees) or 32 minutes by train for 14 EUR (approx 1,200 rupees).
Italy’s old capital suffers from a notoriously creaky public transportation system, potholed streets that devastate tires, aging buses that sporadically go up in flames, and metro stations that are often closed for months.
The idea of flying taxis – without a pilot, after all – has spread around the world as part of the drive to reduce traffic jams and limit pollution.
Various companies, including transportation giant Uber and automaker General Motors, are working on Vertical Takeoff and Landing Aircraft (VTOL), but major challenges remain, including regulatory issues and safety concerns.