Flying taxi successfully completes first crewed trial over Singapore

25 Oct 2019

The 2X Volocopter prototype. Image: Nikolay Kazakov/Volocopter

This week in future tech, Volocopter is aiming to be one of the first to launch a flying taxi service after completing its first crewed test run in Singapore.

German start-up Volocopter has followed up the launch of its Singapore office at the beginning of this year with its first crewed test flight over the south-east Asian nation. Its 2X model had one pilot on board, covering a distance of approximately 1.5km on a two-minute flight at a height of 40 metres.

It flew over the city’s Marine Bay area, which hosts the company’s first VoloPort prototype floating dock. These are designed to provide passengers a safe, secure and integrated experience into existing infrastructure for flying taxis. For the past several months, the 2X aircraft has been undergoing intensive training in the start-up’s native Germany to make sure it met Singaporean safety standards.

“The flight today in Singapore was the most advanced Volocopter flight yet and the piloted flight was as stable as ever,” said Florian Reuter, CEO of Volocopter.

“Never before have people been this close to experiencing what urban air mobility in the city of tomorrow will feel like.”

Hoverbikes and shape-shifting cars at Tokyo Motor Show

Some of the auto industry’s most outlandish creations were displayed at this year’s Tokyo Motor Show including a hoverbike and a shape-shifting car, according to Bloomberg.

While the hoverbike idea might raise a few skeptical eyebrows, the Suzuki Waku Sports is a more realistic concept car that can change shape from an estate car to a coupe. Its designers said that in doing so, a family could change the size of the car depending on their needs.

Another Suzuki car called the Hanare is also aimed at families and large groups, with its name derived from the Japanese word for a detached second house. With a large gull-wing door, it is an autonomous car with no steering wheel and a large TV screen and seats inside for lounging.

One of the most promising cars on display was perhaps the Mercedes Benz Vision EQS Concept, an electric car that can travel up to 700km on a single charge.

New AI will try to make us more fashionable

A team of computer scientists from the University of Texas at Austin has developed an AI assistant called Fashion++ to look at photos of your outfit and suggest helpful tips to make it ‘more fashionable’. Suggestions may include tweaks such as selecting a sleeveless top or a longer jacket.

“We thought of it like a friend giving you feedback,” said Kristen Grauman, who was involved in the project. “It’s also motivated by a practical idea: that we can work with a given outfit to make small changes so it’s just a bit better.”

The team said that while finding images of fashionable outfits was easy, it was more difficult to find unfashionable ones. Creating a workaround, it mixed images of fashionable outfits to create less-fashionable examples and trained the system on what not to wear.

Addressing the issue of bias, the team noted the AI found it harder to recognise vintage looks as stylish because training images came from the internet, which has been in wide use only since the 1990s. Additionally, there was an overwhelming number of images from North America, limiting styles from across the world.

Hydrogen cars drive almost 6,000km through Europe

From today (25 October) 13 hydrogen vehicles are setting off on a combined 5,836km journey from five European countries to Hamburg, to mark an expansion of the continent’s refuelling stations.

The road trip is part of an awareness campaign by Hydrogen Mobility Europe (H2ME), which funds the installation of the refuelling stations and plans to have installed 49 across the continent by 2022, an increase on the 32 that it has funded already.

“Today, there are 76 hydrogen refuelling stations across [Germany] and new stations opening every week!” said Valerie Bouillon-Delporte, president of Hydrogen Europe.

“The market is getting ready and the technology is proving its reliability; just consider the 6,000km driven across Europe to convoy in Hamburg.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic