In July 2017 the first airborne taxi service will operate in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Having lived in the Emirates for a number of years, it is little surprise that this particular technical advancement would be showcased there. Dubai remains the preeminent destination for glitz, glam and the futuristic way of life.
Visitors and unnatural residents to Dubai are welcome guests in a foreign land. I have often described my experience there as Disney World-meets-Vegas, replete with all of the luxury and fantasy one could hope to experience in a lifetime. It is especially conducive to thrill seeking guests looking to hone their craft by land, sea or air. So long as you respect the laws of the land and know the boundaries, there is no limit to what the authorities will allow you to pay to do.
Take the traffic: Dubai proudly boasts a traffic control strategy involving automated license plate readers positioned every few kilometers ready, willing and able to fine you 400 dirham ($109 dollars) for exceeding the speed limit by 10km. Want to speed? Not a problem; pay the fine and enjoy the ride. Want to drive dangerously? Don't expect to see lights and sirens in your rear view mirror; the authorities will be waiting for you at your destination to impound your car.
Yet the most striking characteristic about Dubai is its vision, bred and stewarded by its ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Under Sheikh Mo's leadership the emirate has become a beacon for excellence in design and engineering. It is the proving grounds for the most extreme transportation technology and the most likely birthplace of the Jetsonian future. But what impact this technology will have on the human experience of transportation is not yet clear.
So what could a future-state Dubai look like? For one, traffic surveillance will be a thing of the past. As cars become more intelligent they could be granted the ability to self-regulate. Lawful speeds will fluctuate with traffic conditions in a never-ending pursuit of absolute maximum efficiency. Fast lanes will be designated for those of the appropriate status, driving cars with the necessary performance characteristics. When connected cars develop a conscious able to self-report erratic behavior, Dubai will be first in line to ground truth the technology.
Technology's impact on recreational transportation is even less defined. Surely the thrill seekers of Dubai will eschew rate limited transmissions and designated traffic lanes. These adventurers will ride the adoption curve as developments in speed and acceleration test the limits of machine-augmented human ability. When money is no object, man's insatiable appetite to conquer the laws of nature is unleashed.
While the spectacle of automated airborne transportation is inspiring, its utility is probably a generation or more off. Even then the human experience of movement from Point A to Point B will be subject to the law of diminishing returns and will eventually experience the same congestion problems encountered on the ground today. The primary beneficiary of these vertical roadways will become the State no-longer responsible for building expensive ground passageways. Yet the technologies these industries produce will open up entirely new avenues for human exploration, innovation and experience.
Nick B. is a guest contributor to APEX. He is a journeyman adventure junky with a passion for technology, ethics and culture. He currently resides in New York City with his wife, two kids and two dogs.