back to article Former Google X bloke's startup unveils 'self flying' electric air taxi

A “self-flying” electric air taxi, as built by a startup backed by Google moneybags Larry Page, has reportedly been undergoing flight tests in New Zealand. “What if flying across town was as easy as hopping in a rideshare? What if Cora could fly for you? Cora will combine self-flying software with expert human supervision, so …

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Because our fans & propellers are electric, they can operate independently. An issue with one has no effect on the others,”

Hmm - an interesting take on 'because' - so they have independent batteries and controllers and links to the main controls?

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Achtung! Lawyers at 6 o'clock high!

The lift fans are unsafe: no ducts. The propulsion fan is unsafe: no duct. The machine is unsafe: it's got a massive battery pack. The machine is unsafe: there is no way to safely exit it in flight (see unsafe lift and propulsion fans, with the propulsion fan being behind the passenger compartment. The machine is unsafe: it is designed for operation over an urban area. In the event of a problem, after the passengers are converted to cutlets by the fans, the machine will land on the heads of people on the ground, and the unsafe battery will short to ground, starting a nice little metal fire. (Hmm. Li-ion battery on fire. Remind the fire service to not use water to try to put that out.) The machine is unsafe: it has a pitiful range, so that it will be difficult for it to get outside of the urban area if there's a problem, unless the problem is early enough in the flight. The machine is unsafe: without a pilot it won't be operating in controlled airspace, which means low, ensuring the minimum margin for error.

Just write the settlement check now.

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Re: Achtung! Lawyers at 6 o'clock high!

"The lift fans are unsafe: no ducts" etc.

There are these things called helicopters...

I remember going along to give evidence at a coroner's inquest. One of the cases before mine was about a squaddie who'd gone round the back of the helicopter he'd just left and into the tail rotor. In fact, it's that case I remember and not my own. I thought of it when I actually got a lift to a scene in one. The landing was on slightly sloping ground & I just remembered that case in time and decided that leaving down-slope was better than leaving up-slope.

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Re: Achtung! Lawyers at 6 o'clock high!

So tell me what is the procedure when a police helicopter has a problem?

As for LiPo battery fires, how come SOP on an airliner when one of these catches is to pour water on it because corralling the thermal runaway takes priority?

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Re: Achtung! Lawyers at 6 o'clock high!

So tell me what is the procedure when a police helicopter has a problem?

Sadly, people die.

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Re: Achtung! Lawyers at 6 o'clock high!

So tell me what is the procedure when a police helicopter has a problem?

Helicopters have rotor blades, not fans. If they are 100 metres or so above ground level, they can autorotate down, and can land in a semi-controlled manner. If they are 10 metres or less above ground level, they can land using ground effect in a rather less semi-controlled manner. If they are between roughly 10 and 100 metres, all aboard them are going to die. And they will take anyone underneath (who doesn't run away really fast) with them.

As for LiPo battery fires, how come SOP on an airliner when one of these catches is to pour water on it because corralling the thermal runaway takes priority?

Because the batteries on tablets, cell phones, and laptops are much smaller than the batteries in an electric aeroplane. Please. Please. Please, pour water on the battery of a burning electric car. Stand really close when you do it. You will see, briefly, exactly why this is Very Bad Idea.

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Re: Achtung! Lawyers at 6 o'clock high!

There are these things called helicopters...

The number of people killed or very seriously injured by helicopter rotors is rather high. They're unsafe, too. Just not as unsafe as these things, helos have only two rotors, and usually the problem is with the tail rotor. These things have multiple fans, right next to the doors. They're an accident waiting to happen.

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Re: Achtung! Lawyers at 6 o'clock high!

"Because the batteries on tablets, cell phones, and laptops are much smaller than the batteries in an electric aeroplane. Please. Please. Please, pour water on the battery of a burning electric car. Stand really close when you do it. You will see, briefly, exactly why this is Very Bad Idea."

Then please,please, please, PLEASE demonstrate the presence of pure lithium in a LiPo battery.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plug-in_electric_vehicle_fire_incidents

Because electric vehicles have been safely extinguished with water. Why, by your logic, it would be impossible to dissolve table salt or NuSalt (which contain sodium and potassium, respectively, both in the same family of metals with the same hydrogolic risks).

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Black Helicopters

I can see a number of issues

1) I'm sorry, our emergency pilot take over service is experiencing high volumes of calls at the moment. Please hold, your plane is important to us and someone will be with you as soon as possible.

2) Who wants the job of doing nothing for extended periods, then suddenly being thrown into an emergency situation you have no prior knowledge of, and where the live of several people depend on your decisions.

3) Unlike a normal pilot, where if you screw up enough you are generally not in a position to be questioned, if some remote takeover pilot screws up they will always be available for their performance to be critiqued by the CAA/FAA etc. This might put off "real" commercial pilots who could lose their licenses over some bad decision made in 2) above.

4) I prefer to fly in vehicles where the person controlling it also has a high vested interest in the airworthiness, design and safety of the vehicle. i.e. is also in the fragile vehicle, 1000's of feet above the ground.

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Re: I can see a number of issues

"Who wants the job of doing nothing for extended periods, then suddenly being thrown into an emergency situation you have no prior knowledge of, and where the live of several people depend on your decisions."

Fire brigades, emergency ambulances, lifeboats... It wouldn't be a unique situation.

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Re: I can see a number of issues

Except the circumstances aren't as urgent. Police, fire companies, and ambulances usually are informed as they're deployed as to the upcoming situation, and the travel time (minutes vs. seconds) usually offers a chance to formulate a plan of approach.

Lifeboats are usually deployed for one reason: people overboard, so it's easy to train for the limited range of circumstances that entails.

Whereas being forced into an unfamiliar but true emergency (read: respond in a few seconds or you and everyone inside dies) is TOO urgent.

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Anonymous Coward

Why do they bother with this autonomous flying vehicle stuff?

Wings are a great idea, it can glide down when batteries run out mid-flight. In addition to the parachute, a lot safer than the usual flying-car-vapourware.

They would never allow these in UK cities - the wings mean more space is required than without, can't see these landing on most lawns anyway, or allowed on UK roads.

The range is a major problem - it's too short to be useful, especially given the lack of landing sites in built up areas. Would bring a whole other level of fear to range anxiety.

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Re: Why do they bother with this autonomous flying vehicle stuff?

"or allowed on UK roads."

Well, no, of course not. It's an aircraft, not a car and doesn't convert into one.

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FAIL

Stick it alongside Elon's underground bus, Larry, and go home.

I have seen a lot of bright aircraft designs come and go. If your ambition stretches only to short-range, low and slow air taxi stuff, then a conventional helicopter is simpler, cheaper, more practical and more efficient.

Three dubious innovations in one:

* Bizarre configuration is inherently less inefficient.

* Electric batteries cannot deliver power-to-weight for endurance and economic utilisation.

* Autonomous cars are not working out easy to do, never mind aircraft.

Any one of these is enough to kill the project. This thing is just an impractical toy, it really is.

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Re: Stick it alongside Elon's underground bus, Larry, and go home.

I think we are a lot closer to an autonomous aircraft than an autonomous car. The planes you travel in today spend most of their time on autopilot.

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My eyes!

By god it's ugly!

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https://lilium.com/

Way cooler looking and more aerodynamic at a guess

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Re: https://lilium.com/

I'd like to upvote but my bullshit-meter is well into the red. Yes, in spite of the (heavily edited) "first flight" video.

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Nope. Nope, nope , nope.

"unlike cars, Cora travels in a straight line"

One of the reasons I bought my house where I did was because it was AWAY FROM TRAFFIC. The last thing I want is for these bozos to suddenly decide they have the right to fly over my house day and night.

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Mushroom

Cora will combine self-flying software with expert human supervision

But probably not in a 1-to-1 ratio. How many Coras does one "pilot" get to handle at the same time? Might be fine if nothing ever goes wrong, but sure hope the day never comes that someone attacks all Coras simultaneously. I think I'd rather my Skytaxi of Death be an oversized quadcopter drone with either autorotation or an emergency parachute (or 4), thanks.

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WTF?

"Fully electric"..."Emissions free"

Are you f**king kidding me?

Had they said "Emissions free where it's operating" that would have been accurate.

What they said (given where most electricity actually comes from) is flat out bu***hit.

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Re: "Fully electric"..."Emissions free"

> What they said (given where most electricity actually comes from) is flat out bu***hit.

"""Flight tests have been taking place in New Zealand"""

In the South Island, where this is being flown, almost all electricity is hydro. Thus they are perfectly correct. How it operates in your country may depend on how archaic your electricity system is.

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