Tag Archives: laws

Kitty Hawk’s Air Taxi

It seems that a number of companies are taking to the air and working on new transportation methods. A significant new entry vying for a place in the sky is Kitty Hawk, a company financed by Google co-founder and Alphabet CEO, Larry Page. (Kitty Hawk is run by Sebastian Thrun who started Google’s autonomous car unit as director of Google X.) The company has been working somewhat stealthily in New Zealand, testing a new type of fully electric, self-piloting flying taxis.

New Zealand’s prime minister recently announced that it will test Kitty Hawk’s autonomous planes as part of an official certification process. The goal is to have a commercial network of flying taxis in New Zealand in three years. Things will be somewhat different in the U.S. though; the FAA allows test flights of autonomous vehicles, but there is no path to commercialize at this point in time.

Kitty Hawk’s first plane is Cora, a personal air taxi for everyday use. The plane can take off and land like a helicopter, thus eliminating the need for a runway. It has the potential to land on spaces such as rooftops and parking lots. Cora combines self-flying software with expert human supervision. The all-electric vehicle is a pollution-free way to reduce commute time, and stress. Cora has a flight range of 100 kilometers and can fly 150 km/hour.

Look… up in the air… it’s a bird…. it’s a plan…. It’s Cora!

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the future of transportation. Will it be on the ground?
  2. Show Kitty Hawk’s Web site: https://kittyhawk.aero/
  3. A video of the plane is available at: https://cora.aero/
  4. Discuss the components of an environmental scan: social, technology, economics, competition, and legal.
  5. Ask students what data they would want in order to make a marketing decision for Kitty Hawk.
  6. Divide students into teams. Have each team use laptops to do general for one of the five components of the environmental scan.
  7. Debrief the exercise by compiling information on the white board. Does this give a good picture of the situation faced by Kitty Hawk?

Source:  Sorkin, A. (12 March, 2018). Larry Page’s flying taxis, now exiting stealth mode. New York Times.

 

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Uber in the Air

Urban mobility. What is it, and how can we achieve it? Consider what would happen by taking transportation off the road – and moving it into the air. Several companies, including Uber, are working on new initiatives for flight-based transportation. Using electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOL), Uber’s goal is to develop transportation that makes lives easier, commutes shorter, and cities cleaner.

Working with a number of different companies and governments, Uber is developing a long-term strategy and infrastructure for drone-based air transportation. In a partnership with Brazilian aerospace conglomerate Embraer, Uber announced a joint venture called Uber Elevate to develop small VTOLs. On-demand aviation would change commuting considerably. A network of VTOLs could provide rapid transportation between, and within, cities.

Instead of driving hours on the ground, a commute becomes only minutes in the air. For example, the average San Francisco resident spends roughly 230 hours/year commuting between work and home! In Sydney, Australia, and Los Angeles, California, residents spend an entire seven working works each year commuting! In other countries, the estimated commute time is even longer – Mumbai has an average commute time of 90 minutes. Long commutes raise stress levels, absorb valuable resources, and cut short our free time.

Want a ride?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: How much time do they spend commuting each work to work and school?
  2. Show the Uber Elevate concept video: https://youtu.be/JuWOUEFB_IQ
  3. A longer video explanation can be found at: https://youtu.be/nuFSh7N0Nhw
  4. What are the students’ opinions of this new service? Would they use it?
  5. Discuss the importance of clearly defining a target market.
  6. For Uber Elevate, who is the target market?
  7. Divide students into teams and have each team develop a profile of a target market. Include demographics, psychographics, behaviors, values, attitudes, etc.
  8. Based on the target market profile, what makes this product unique for these customers?

Source:  Brandchannel.com, Reuters News Service

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Uber Autonomous Car Accident

Autonomous cars have clocked thousands of hours and millions of miles without having an accident. In fact, one of the original reasons for developing autonomous cars was to lower automobile accident rates. (According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2016 more than 37,000 people died in traffic-related accidents in the U.S. alone.)

Yet, despite all the precautions, technology, testing, training, and resources, an autonomous car operated by Uber (with an emergency backup driver behind the wheel) hit and killed a pedestrian on a street in Tempe, Arizona. This is the first reported pedestrian death that is linked to autonomous driving, and a stark reminder that the technology is still in an experimental stage. Although the technology has been around now for close to a decade, there are many unpredictable situations that the cars have not yet been programmed to handle. Many of these situations also present ethical dilemmas, as well as life-and-death decisions.

Uber has suspended testing the autonomous cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and Toronto. Toyota has also suspended its autonomous driving program.

What will be the impact on the public perception and the technology?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Discuss the pros and cons of autonomous cars with students.
  2. Show a video from Uber that explains its autonomous car project: https://youtu.be/27OuOCeZmwI
  3. Discuss public relations and crisis communications.
  4. Have student go online to read comments and stories about the accident.
  5. What statements did Uber make? What additional statement were made by other autonomous car companies?
  6. Did Uber take appropriate action following the accident?
  7. Divide students into teams. Have each team prepare a crisis communications plan for Uber. Include in the plan: spokespeople, news outlets, key message statements, timing of responses, social media, etc.

Source:  New York Times, Wall Street Journal, other news sources

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