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Does the Public Really Want Air Taxis?

Evtols? UAVs? UAM? Tell Us How You Really Feel . . . 

Yellow trolley in front of colorful urban homes.
From trolley cars to flying cars, Lisbon is getting ready to transition. [Image copyright and courtesy of Tours by Locals.]

The planners, developers, manufacturers, and regulators responsible for the safe (and ideally, seamless) integration of advanced air mobility (AAM) into society have invested a lot of time and money in helping to bring drone deliveries and air taxis into the everyday lives of people around the globe.

But, do “the people” really want these flying machines as part of their day-to-day lives? That’s what a quartet of researchers sought to find out.

Writing in the February 2023 Issue of Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Sofia Kalakou, Catarina Marques, Duarte Prazeres (University of Lisbon), and Vassillis Agouridas (University of Leeds), published “Citizens’ attitudes towards technological innovations: The case of urban air mobility.”

Don’t Put the Cart – or the eVTOL – Before the Horse

Technological change often precedes the social change necessary for society-at-large to embrace the change the technologists foist upon them.

For example, society was aghast when automobiles replaced horse and carriages. The braggadocio accompanying the launch of the “technological wonder” that was Titanic quickly turned tragic. When commercial air travel literally “took off” in the 1920s, people were cautiously optimistic. Today, no one chooses transatlantic, transcontinental, or transpacific travel by ship except as a recreational luxury.

The study, conducted at the ISCTE – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa queried 485 Lisbon residents, divided into six clusters: open-minded, first movers, emergency supports, pollution sensitive, skeptics, and deniers. Each of these groups, it turns out, will require a different approach from policymakers and operators to gain their support of UAM. The higher the intention to use such services, the more likely a Lisbon resident would be to support the adoption and integration of UAM into this city of roughly 550,000 people.

You Reap What You Sow

The study concluded that government agencies and societal entities would be wise to query the public-at-large regarding their attitudes and perceptions about the adoption of urban air mobility and pay attention to what they say. This give-and-take allows for expectations about UAM to be properly set, which will smooth the way for a positive perception and reception.

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Nanci Mora