I have some concerns about those autonomus flying taxis

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

In a few years, some of us, very few, will be able to hop in an Uber plane and commute to work in Los Angeles and Dallas.

According to a Los Angeles Times article, which was reprinted in the Houston Chronicle and appeared on my tablet, the flying taxis will be in service by 2020, if everything goes right.

These flying taxis will relieve congestion on the ground, but as they become more popular, that will also increase congestion above ground in those cities, which presents another problem, unless computers run the whole show.

That’s exactly what Uber plans. They will fly electric commuter planes without pilots. I have two problems with this - electric planes and no pilots.

I still think that if you want to generate a lot of power, like to lift a bunch of people into the air, you’ll need non-renewable fuel contributed millions of years ago by dinosaurs. Maybe one day (not in 2020) there will be some other type of fuel, but for now, planes need the old-fashioned gas refined from oil.

All those flying things in sci-fi movies that lift into the air effortlessly and fly around without burning anything will be reality one day, perhaps, but not in 2020. So, that may be a stretch.

Uber is going to let computers fly the planes. That is my second problem.

I know that we’re on the verge of being able to buy totally autonomous cars. My grandchildren will have no idea what a drivers license is because they won’t need one. But those autonomous cars remain on ground level.

I also know that computers basically fly planes now, and an autonomous flying taxi would not be like a brand new invention. But all those commercial airliners with autopilots also have human pilots.

That’s an important part of the flying experience, to have human pilots in the cockpit just in case the computer ones freak out. But, pilots can freak out also, especially the ones with girlfriend problems. So, it has to be just the right type of pilot, with no emotional problems.

If I had my way, Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III would pilot every commercial airliner I take. He is retired now from US Airways, but I’d bring him out of retirement and ask him to fly the plane, so we can be extra safe.

During the flight, I would be showing the movie “Sully.”

On Jan. 15, 2009, Sully landed his plane filled with 155 passengers and crew in the Hudson River in New York City. Everyone survived, although they all got wet. Shortly after takeoff, the plane struck a large flock of birds (Canada geese) and lost power in both engines.

Sully remained cool. On the radio he sounded like he was just making a routine landing into the Hudson. “We’re gonna be in the Hudson,” he was heard saying calmly.

He said it so calmly, he might as well have been asking a flight attendant to bring him some tea.
The flight attendant may have been too busy getting strapped in for the crash landing, though. Sully’s tea would have had to wait until after the ordeal, if he even drinks tea.

So, if I ever take one of those flying taxis, I want Sully to pilot it so that if a bunch of suicidal birds knock everything out, I can still rely on his skills as a glider pilot to get us back on the ground safely, or the water, whatever, as long as we’re down and alive. I don’t mind getting wet, either.

For a very long time, though, I’ll just watch those computer-guided taxis fly around above me while I’m stuck in a traffic jam. It’s old- fashioned, but being old-fashioned like this is what helped me to get old(er).

I’m not saying I’m old. Just making a point. Now what’s this story here about vacuum cleaners that don’t need to be pushed around? What will they think of next?