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From the
Senior Editor

Lynn Stanley

Sky Bound


saw my first flying car in 1962 when The Jetsons hit broadcast television. I was four years old and there were just three networks and 51 shows. Our “tube,” as my Dad called it, was black and white but it didn’t diminish my fascination with the Jetson family’s daily life—which included videophones, conveyor belt sidewalks, robot servants and the FX-Atmos. The flying car sported a glass bubble canopy, dashboard radar screen and tail fins and folded up into a briefcase light enough for George Jetson to carry into his office.

In 1966, I went to outer space with the crew of the starship Enterprise. Star Trek, with its ability to cross galaxies at warp drive and beam personnel to different locations via transporters, is still considered one of the most influential science fiction series in TV history. In 1977, a year after I graduated high school, Star Wars hit the big screen. Cloud cars, air speeders, light sabers and the Force, the source of a Jedi’s power, took my imagination in a different direction.

Now 43 years later, inventions like hovercraft, smartphones with videochat and autonomous appliances like robotic vacuum cleaners are no longer the stuff of science fiction and fantasy. Technology advances also influence the automotive industry.

Last year, Paramount Ventures built the Paramount Miami World Center in Florida. In addition to 513 luxury condos, the building sports a SkyDeck pool on the 60th floor that can be modified with a hydraulic floor to transform itself into a take-off and landing pad for flying cars. The same year Boeing teamed with Porsche to jointly develop an urban air vehicle. Rolls-Royce, Airbus, Bell Helicopter and Toyota and others are pursuing the same goal.

In January, Uber and Hyundai Motor Co. joined hands to develop Uber air taxis for a future aerial rideshare network at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020 in Las Vegas. There, Hyundai unveiled its S-A1 prototype. The OEM will produce and deploy the all-electric personal air vehicles (PAV), and Uber will provide airspace support services, connections to ground transportation and a ridesharing app, uberAIR.

SmartETFs, managed by Guinness Atkinson Asset Management, issued a white paper in 2019 that explores the convergence of electric vehicles (EV), autonomous vehicles (AV) and ultimately—self-flying, electric cars.

To help define the space, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has adopted six levels of autonomous vehicles. Most of us are at zero—where the human performs all aspects of driving. Level One is defined as a vehicle that includes some driver assistance, while Level Two refers to partially automated driving, Level Three conditional driving automation, Level Four high driving automation and Level Five full driving automation.

The industry is debating the timeframe for achieving Level Five. According to technology weblog ExtremeTech, if mainstream consumers get close to Level Five, “most people will not own cars but instead subscribe to a mobility service.” But SmartETFs’ white paper suggests that the shift from car ownership to that of service will require a merging of cheaper electric vehicles, autonomous driving and a ride sharing network.

One thing is certain, there are a lot of hurdles to cross before commuters use an app to schedule a flying taxi. One of the first is connectivity. In this issue, we took a look at Uber and Hyundai’s partnership and talked to CEP Technologies, a stamper that specializes in producing parts for smart mobility solutions. Its business model illustrates how the metalforming industry must adapt to navigate this new world.