Infrastructure, cost, and regulatory compliance are only some of the obstacles this innovative venture faces
Israel may be a small country, but in reality, it’s really just one really long traffic jam. In December of 2020, just shy of the global outbreak of Covid-19, 3,689,300 vehicles were registered in Israel, of which 3,173,300 were privately owned vehicles. While one might think that a worldwide pandemic with massive lockdowns, layoffs, and a “new normal” involving remote working models might lead to fewer private cars hitting the streets, the opposite is true.
With more people working from home, “rush hour” now spans across most of our waking hours, with the vast majority of Israel’s highways and inner-city roads gridlocked around the clock. Working from home is enabling Israel’s workforce to clock in and out of the office more flexibly, allowing them to travel early, mid- and later in the day to run errands, make appointments, and enjoy leisure time, in addition to driving to the office multiple times a week.
While updates to local road infrastructure are always in the plan, they may or may not provide the answer Israel’s drivers seek. Now, whispers of new transportation innovations, including the “flying taxi,” are looming overhead, quite literally. With roadmaps pointing to the flying taxi hitting the market in the coming years, one begs the question: will they resolve the congestion conundrum? Or, will they further burden an already jam-packed transportation ecosystem, by crowding Israel’s skies, in addition to its already congested routes?
Let’s examine this futuristic mode of transportation from several perspectives.
Israeli startup AIR is one of the companies developing flying vehicles. Scheduled to be available from 2024, their cars are intended to cover 160 km on a single charge, at a maximum speed of 240 km/h, and require an hour to recharge in between uses. Israel is a relatively small country; such a service would be able to serve people commuting to Tel Aviv from locations such as Jerusalem, Haifa, and Beer Sheva, with greater speed and (one hopes) less time spent in traffic.
However, such a solution would not be helpful for traveling between northern and southern locations, such as from Haifa to Beer Sheva, as over 190 km separates the city. Pausing to refuel mid-travel would be inefficient, costing all parties involved time and money they’d rather spend at their destination. As such, it’s safe to say that flying taxi infrastructure would only be installed for jaunts to and from central locations, once again holding the periphery and its residents back.
Although AIR raised seed funding of under $10 million last year, much more money is needed to complete development and prepare Israel’s infrastructure for the flying taxi revolution. In fact, billions of dollars have already been invested into the global electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) industry – which will be regained through ticket fare, once air taxis hit the market.
A survey of companies developing air taxis around the world predicts that the cost of traveling via this novel transportation mode would be anywhere between 16 – 57 NIS per kilometer, per passenger. Thus, to travel between cities, such as from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, flying taxi users can expect to pay 1081 – 3853 NIS, each way. As the average Israeli earns slightly less than 12,000 NIS a month, most would not be able to afford such an exorbitant fee, leaving innovative travel to the country’s most prosperous citizens.
For flying taxis to take off as part of Israel’s future-forward transportation ecosystem, strict adherence to relevant regulations must be ascertained, to ensure the vehicles are both legal and safe. Regulatory approval from the FAA and air traffic control organizations will focus on how long flying taxis can operate before having to undergo maintenance, how much noise they’re allowed to make – where and when – what levels of performance they must achieve, and what safety measures must be taken, before going airborne.
These regulatory conditions are already being built into the development process, and it’s safe to say that the flying taxi’s launch will be contingent on their achievement. Will developers be able to comply and bring their air vehicles to market, or will they become overburdened by the complex and ever-changing regulatory environment? Only time will tell.
Bottom line: Will flying taxis actually resolve Israel’s traffic problem?
While we’d like to think that adding an airborne method of daily transportation to the mix will reduce the burden on Israel’s heavily-trafficked roads, the anticipated cost, infrastructure, regulations, and distance limitations point to flying cars being limited to the wealthy few who seek to travel within closer distances.
Additionally, one significant piece of the puzzle has yet to be mentioned: those who own private vehicles enjoy being able to go where they want when they want. Only time will tell whether they will park (or sell) their vehicles, in favor of waiting in line to board another – albeit innovative – form of public transportation.
Does your startup have innovative ideas poised to resolve Israel’s traffic problems? Talk to us about joining Highroad Launchpad, today!