“We believe substantial uptake will not occur within the next 10 to 15 years,” the analysis says.
It says though that The Jetsons is not as far-fetched as some may think, with air taxis predicted to be flying around much sooner than 2062 – the year in which the cartoon show is set.
The past few years have seen companies including Uber, Airbus and Lilium announce trial and commercial launch dates within the next five years.
The analysis concludes that a commercial launch by 2023 in aircraft flown by pilots is “aggressive but technically and operationally feasible”.
However it identifies seven key barriers that will make mass adoption of air taxis difficult in the medium term.
They include: regulation, air traffic management, pilot availability, cost, infrastructure, technological challenges and public acceptance.
“Delivering a fully autonomous solution will take several years and will be contingent on millions of incident-free flying kilometres to match the safety standards of other passenger aircraft,” the report says.
“Regulation will likely prove the largest bottleneck. Regulators could push launch time frames out, despite the service being technologically and operationally ready.”
Report co-author George Woods says besides regulatory barriers, passenger willingness to use a pilot-less air taxi could prove equally as challenging with recent surveys indicating not all customers were comfortable with the idea of boarding an unmanned aircraft.
If the barriers could be overcome and timelines met, he says city to airport rides in the short term and major event transport in the longer term were plausible.
“In around five years’ time we could see operation from key origin-destination pairs such as city-to-airports,” Mr Woods says.
“Looking forward 10-15 years, we could see further expansion of e-air taxis into other key destination pairs and major events, and potentially other cities, but short of full scale deployment.”
Uber acknowledges the critical challenges it faces in bringing air transportation to the market including certification from aviation authorities, battery technology, vehicle efficiency and performance, air traffic control, cost, safety, finding landing pads and pilot training.
But a company spokeswoman says Uber is confident Australians will embrace the new technology.
The 19-kilometre commute between Melbourne’s CBD and Tullamarine airport, for example, would likely reduce from 55 minutes by car to nine minutes by Uber Air.
“We see Uber Air as bringing an intrinsic benefit to cities that need it. This is why we are actively focused on cities facing issues like congestion that need new thinking to help address an old challenge,” the spokeswoman says.
“Australians love to embrace new technologies and champion new innovation which is why we believe they would embrace ridesharing in the sky too.”
Erin covers crime for The Age. Most recently she was a police reporter at the Geelong Advertiser.