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十年后,我们将迎来“飞行出租车”时代?

更新时间:2018-3-3 8:10:42 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Flying Taxis May Be Years Away, but the Groundwork Is Accelerating
十年后,我们将迎来“飞行出租车”时代?

SAN FRANCISCO — Flying cars are just starting to inch their way out of science fiction. But that is not stopping some companies from planning for flying taxi services.

旧金山——飞行汽车正在缓慢地从科幻小说中脱离出来。但这不妨碍一些公司在为飞行出租车服务做准备。

A growing collection of tech companies, aircraft manufacturers, automakers and investors are betting that fleets of battery-powered aircraft will give rise to air taxi services, perhaps as soon as the next decade. Some of those taxis, the companies hope, may even use artificial intelligence to fly themselves.

越来越多的科技公司、飞机制造商、汽车制造商及投资者都在下注:以电池驱动的飞行器将带来空中出租车服务,可能最快在下一个十年就能实现。这些公司希望,这种出租车的一部分甚至可能利用人工智能自行驾驶。

The dealmaking, technology exploration and perhaps wishful thinking around this new sort of flying transportation — please, the companies ask, don’t call them flying cars — are reminiscent of the work done on self-driving cars just a few years ago.

围绕着这种新型飞行交通工具——这些公司要求,请不要将它们称为飞行汽车——的并购交易、技术探索,以及可能的一厢情愿,都不禁让人想起了短短几年前在无人驾驶汽车上下的功夫。

No one can say for certain if these new vehicles will turn out to be a real business. But many companies are already worried about being left behind.

没人能确定这种新型载具是否会成为一个实在的生意。但许多公司已经开始担心会被甩在后面。

The European aerospace company Airbus said Tuesday that it was making an investment in Blade, an aviation startup in New York, and forming a partnership to expand Blade’s helicopter hailing service in more cities around the world. Last week, Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s chief executive, said he expected the ride-hailing company to start flying passengers on a service called Uber Air in five to 10 years.

欧洲航空公司空客(Airbus)周二表示将投资纽约的一家航空初创公司Blade,并与其建立合作伙伴关系,在全球更多城市扩大Blade的直升机呼叫服务。优步(Uber)的首席执行官达拉·霍斯劳沙希(Dara Khosrowshahi)表示,他预计这家招车公司会在5到10年内推出一个名为“空中优步”(Uber Air)的飞行载客服务。

In November, Boeing acquired Aurora Flight Sciences, a company specializing in flight systems for pilotless aircraft, for an undisclosed sum. Before the acquisition, Aurora had been working with Uber to develop a flying taxi. And Joby Aviation, a startup in Santa Cruz, California, building its own air taxi, said this month that it had raised $100 million in venture funding from a consortium of investors including the venture capital arms of Intel, Toyota Motor and JetBlue Airways.

11月,波音收购了专研无人驾驶飞机飞行系统的公司极光飞行科学(Aurora Flight Sciences),未公开收购金额。在此次收购之前,Aurora公司正与优步合作,研发飞行出租车。而一家正在研发自己的空中出租车的初创公司——位于加利佛尼亚圣克鲁斯的乔比航空(Joby Aviation)本月表示,一个包括英特尔(Intel)、丰田汽车(Toyota Motor)和捷蓝航空(JetBlue Airways)风险投资部门在内的投资者财团已向其注入一亿美元风险投资。

“This is the natural progression of the vehicles we make,” said Ben Bridge, head of global business for Airbus Helicopters. “We want a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation that is happening.”

“我们的载具制造走到这一步是很自然的,”空客直升机(Airbus Helicopters)全球业务负责人本·布里奇(Ben Bridge)说。“我们想拥有一席之地,也想加入这个正在进行的对话。”

Flying cars even played a bit role in the recently settled legal fight over trade secrets between Uber and Waymo, the self-driving car service spun out of Google.

甚至在优步和Waymo——从谷歌拆分出的无人驾驶汽车服务商——最近达成和解的商业机密官司中,飞行出租车也扮演了个小角色。

In court testimony this month, Travis Kalanick, Uber’s former chief executive, said he had heard that Larry Page — the chief executive of Waymo’s parent company, Alphabet, who has a side project building new types of aircraft — was upset because Uber was “doing their thing” with flying cars.

在本月的法庭证词中,优步前首席执行官特拉维斯·卡兰尼克(Travis Kalanick)表示,他听说拉里·佩奇(Larry Page)——Waymo母公司Alphabet首席执行官,他另有一个制造新型飞机的副业项目——之所以不满,是因为优步在飞行汽车领域“做了他们擅长的事”。

Whatever you imagine a flying car to be — stop. What these companies envision is something like a helicopter but much quieter and more affordable. Think of a hobbyist’s drone, but big enough to fit people. It would, in theory, be welcome in urban environments and affordable to more than well-heeled businesspeople. At least, that’s the dream.

不论你想象的飞行出租车是什么样——别想了。这些公司所设想的是某种类似于直升机,但更安静、更便宜的东西。想想一个业余爱好者的无人机,但大小足够载人。理论上,这在城市里会很受欢迎,也能让除富商以外更多的人负担得起。至少,是这么梦想的。

Before there can be too much enthusiasm for these flying taxi services, it’s worth noting that self-driving cars have yet to turn into a notable business for anyone, despite about a decade of research at tech giants like Google and billions in investment from Silicon Valley and the auto industry.

在人们对飞行出租车的热情泛滥之前,值得一提的是,尽管有着谷歌这些科技巨头十多年的研究,以及硅谷和汽车产业上亿的投资,目前还没人能把无人驾驶汽车转变为一个大型产业。

Regulators are just starting to agree on rules for large-scale tests of self-driving cars on public roads. How would they deal with flying taxis? The details of the future service are far — very far — from being ironed out.

监管机构刚刚才就公共道路上的无人驾驶汽车大规模测试达成一致。他们又将如何对待飞行出租车?这项未来服务的细节还远远没有解决。

Still, there are some reasons for the new enthusiasm. Battery improvements and the wide use of drones have spawned technological breakthroughs. The taxis would take off and land vertically like a helicopter, so they’d take up less room. Because they would be battery-powered, they would be more environmentally friendly.

但新近再次掀起的热情也是有些理由的。电池的改进和无人机的广泛使用催生了技术突破。飞行出租车可像直升机一样垂直起飞、着陆,占用更少空间。因为它们由电池供电,所以也会更加环保。

For now, Airbus executives hope to gain from Blade’s experience with an app that allows customers to reserve a seat on a helicopter. Airbus is expected to invest up to $15 million in Blade, which would represent about a 10 percent stake in the company, according to a person who is familiar with the transaction but not permitted to discuss the investment details publicly.

现在,空客的高管希望借助Blade的经验,这家公司开发了一个应用,让顾客可以预定直升机上的坐席。据了解这一交易但不被允许公开讨论投资细节的知情人士称,空客对Blade的投资预计高达1500万美元,大约是10%的股份。

Both companies see helicopters as an intermediate step until a new type of aircraft and taxi service hits the market. Rob Wiesenthal, Blade’s chief executive, said a quieter and less expensive alternative to helicopters “opens up a whole new world.”

两家公司都将直升机视为新型飞机和出租车投放市场之前的一个过渡。Blade首席执行官罗布·维森塔尔(Rob Wiesenthal)表示,更安静、更便宜的直升机替代品“打开了一个全新的世界”。

Airbus said it was preparing for a test flight by year-end for its CityAirbus aircraft, which carries up to four passengers and can reach a cruising speed of about 75 mph. It plans to deploy the CityAirbus in 2023.

空客公司表示,他们正在为CityAirbus(城市空中巴士)在年底之前的试飞做准备,该飞机可搭载四名乘客,巡航速度可达每小时75英里左右(约合每小时120公里)。公司计划在2023年将CityAirbus投入使用。

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