Autonomous Vehicle Technology: The Latest Advancements and Demonstrations
Exciting advancements in the field of autonomous vehicles will have the public at large doing a double take as the reality of unmanned vehicles—both in the air and on the ground—gains momentum. And many skilled pilots, technicians and engineers will be needed to support these future endeavors.
Here, we’ll highlight some of the latest events happening in the New York area surrounding autonomous vehicles and electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft (eVTOL) which are intended to provide air taxi service in the not-so-distant future. Get ready to learn all about how the future of this phenomenon is carving a bright future for Vaughn College students.
Platooning demonstration at John F. Kennedy Airport
This June, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) and Ohmio—a leading New Zealand-based autonomous mobility company—will host the country’s first three-vehicle platooning demonstration at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport. This exciting event involves eight-passenger driverless shuttles that will travel closely together—without connection—on a closed area at the airport’s long-term parking lot. This demonstration is highly anticipated as it showcases how advancements in autonomous vehicle technology will someday transport passengers safely and efficiently to airport rental car facilities, nearby commuter rail stations, long-term parking lots and other short-term connections—without a driver and within a single movement. Last fall, the PANYNJ was highly successful in its demonstration of two eight-passenger electric autonomous shuttles. The second demonstration is planned to test a larger platoon at faster speeds.
New York City sees first test flight of piloted eVTOL
Earlier this year, skygazing New Yorkers had the opportunity to see the first test flight of a piloted eVTOL at the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, New York. BLADE Air Mobility and BETA Technologies tested a six-passenger ALIA-250 eVTOL—powered by an all-electric propulsion system—to test the noise profile of the aircraft. This milestone demonstration highlighted the transition of helicopters to eVTOLs and proved to be successful: The sound decibel was reduced to one-tenth of that of a helicopter.
Airbus and Boeing on board for autonomous eVTOL air taxi services
Aviation giants Boeing and Airbus are working toward making autonomous air taxi service—specifically pilotless eVTOLs—a high-flying reality in the near future.
Airbus has its sights set on certifying its City Airbus NextGen four-seat eVTOL by 2025, starting with piloted service and transitioning to an uncrewed air taxi service once regulations allow.
Boeing revealed that it invested $450 million in Wisk Aero—a California-based advanced air mobility company—which is developing the world’s first self-flying, all-electric four-seat air taxi that will transport people in dense urban areas. One of the key factors, however, is to build the air taxis to be as light as possible. Wisk Aero plans on leveraging Boeing’s experience with lightweight composite material that was used on the 787 fleet. The company intends to focus on uncrewed urban air mobility—with eVTOLs piloted by a multi-vehicle supervisor on the ground. There’s still some work to be done before you’ll actually see air taxis fly over your city. Regulatory agencies—such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), NASA and even international regulators—will play a major role in approving unmanned air taxis. Wisk Aero hopes to gain certification from the FAA by 2030.
Autonomous bus travel through the Lincoln Tunnel
If you’re loving the thought of zipping around in an autonomous shuttle at the airport, can you imagine what riding in an autonomous bus through the Lincoln Tunnel would be like? This idea is not too far from becoming a reality. In fact, the PANYNJ is working toward using autonomous vehicle technology in public transit. In October of 2022, the PANYNJ partnered with Navya, a leading French autonomous mobility company, to hold a demonstration of two-vehicle shuttle platooning at the JFK Aqueduct Parking Lot, the first-of-its-kind at a North American airport. The demonstration featured two eight-passenger electric autonomous vehicle (AV) shuttles in a platoon to simulate how AV technology could serve passengers in the future and increase capacity of the bus lane.
How eVTOL aircraft reduce impact on the environment
eVTOL aircraft will significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency compared to traditional planes and helicopters. This is because eVTOLs are powered by electric motors, which produce zero emissions and are much more efficient than traditional gas engines.
In addition, as noted, eVTOL aircraft are being made to operate predominantly in urban environments, which reduces the need for long commutes and decreases traffic congestion. This can lead to a reduction in overall energy consumption as well as an increase in individual productivity and well-being.
How Vaughn is providing skilled engineers to move autonomous vehicle development forward
As you can imagine, there are many moving parts to autonomous vehicles. With that being said, the industry needs skilled mechanical, electrical, mechatronic and aerospace engineers to design, build, test and ensure the safety of these efficient, high performing vehicles. In addition to associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees in these areas, Vaughn offers a certificate program in unmanned aerial system (UAS) design, application and operation, so you can become the next engineer to help design and build eVTOL vehicles. Vaughn’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) club is a community of students and faculty who put their heads together to build, program and fly drones, and compete in top contests around the nation. They are also ambassadors of drone safety and help to mentor young drone enthusiasts.
Vaughn offers a certificate in safety management systems which will give you a competitive edge in managing aviation safety. The sky is—literally—the limit in where your degree can take you. Discover the possibilities to create a brighter future not only for yourself, but for the world too. Apply today!