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No driver, no taxi: will the future of commuting be safer?

The future of taking a taxi may not involve a driver. Or a taxi. Or roads.

Commuters in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates may soon be using automated flying taxis, according to the New York Times. The drones, which are capable of holding a single passenger, may begin operation as soon as July, according to the city’s transportation authority director. In fact, a drone has already flown test runs around some of the city’s iconic skyscrapers. But what can we expect about the safety of such vehicles?

What is this drone?

The Chinese produced drones are capable of carrying a passenger weighing up to 220 pounds up to a distance of 31. Titled The Ehang 184, they have a top speed of 100 miles per hour, and operate on battery charges. Authorities are expecting the drone to travel at a speed of around 62 mph.

The idea behind the drone-fueled commutes is to reduce traffic congestion in the city. Currently, Dubai has one of the world’s longest driverless subway systems. However, the goal is to conduct 25% of all travel within the city with driverless vehicles by 2030.

But are flying cars really the future?

For decades, the idea of the flying car has been a staple in our conception of the future. While these drones aren’t exactly “flying cars,” they could potentially be seen as the next evolution of the much discussed and envisioned concept. But the question remains if they will be a safe mode of transportation.

One prominent individual who doesn’t seem to think so is the mind behind Tesla Motors, billionaire Elon Musk, who recently criticized the idea of flying cars.

“If somebody doesn’t maintain their flying car, it could drop a hubcap and guillotine you,” Musk said recently. “Your anxiety level will not decrease as a result of things that weigh a lot buzzing around your head.”

That remains to be seen.

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