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Boeing expects to deliver autonomous flying taxis in a decade

by Justin King

Boeing-owned startup Aurora Flight Sciences is scheduled to begin testing in Dubai and Dallas as early as 2020.

After acquiring Aurora Flight Sciences late last year, Boeing has become one of the most optimistic cheerleaders for autonomous flying taxis.

Speaking to Bloomberg, Boeing chief Dennis Muilenburg suggests the transition to flying taxis is rapidly approaching as large aerospace companies commit significant resources to the nascent industry.

"I think it will happen faster than any of us understand," he said. "Real prototype vehicles are being built right now. So the technology is very doable."

Aurora has already lined up testing projects in Dubai and Dallas that could be sending off their first flights as early as 2020.

Most startups and big companies such as Boeing and Airbus are focusing on small electric aircraft capable of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), operating autonomously to eliminate the need for a trained pilot on every flight. The aircraft will initially focus on short-haul flights from certain rooftops in urban areas, perhaps shuttling city residents from a large office building to the nearest full-scale airport.

Muilenburg admits "it won't be all turned on in one day," as the government must create an entirely new legal framework for managing safety and airspace for such vehicles.