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!

While companies are investing billions of dollars to bring a true autonomous vehicle to the consumer market, today’s drivers are enjoying some cool self-driving technology that is available as either standard equipment or as options on newer cars. You may even be driving one now!

So, the question remains: Does a self-driving car really drive itself? The answer is a bit more complex than the question. Let’s just say that autonomous vehicles may in time give new meaning to the term “back seat driver.”

This month, we explore the latest advancements in self-driving cars and the autonomous features that experts predict will eventually shift autonomous vehicles into the fast lane.

Accelerating into the future

According to the Global Forecast report, the global self-driving car market is expected to grow to 62.4 million units by 2030—up from 20.3 million units in 2021. With revenue projected to reach nearly $326 billion by the end of 2030, the automotive industry is laser-focused on developing driver assistance systems that will pave the way for self-driving cars. Although, fully autonomous vehicles are still years away, some car makers have promised self-driving cars to be available to buy as early as 2024.

What is a self-driving car?

Autonomous vehicles, or self-driving cars, are driven by digital technology and use driverless assistance systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI). With the growing demand for safety as well as environmental factors, this technology is geared toward producing safer cars that can avoid the risk of accidents and help reduce energy consumption—not to mention insurance costs.

Why safety is driving the market

Consumers are all about putting safety first—especially when it comes to their cars. That’s why safety features continue to be a deciding factor when choosing a vehicle. And this safety concern applies not only to drivers in the U.S., but across the globe. The driver support technology of today is designed to help reduce the workload of anyone who operates a car. Were you aware, for instance, that driver error is the cause of over 94 percent of all vehicle accident deaths? To help assist drivers—and reduce the number of accidents—governments across the world have mandated that certain driver support systems be incorporated into cars. These mandated safety features include:

  • Lane departure warning (LDW)
  • Automatic emergency braking (AEB)

Other popular (but not mandatory) driver support features are:

  • Intelligent or adaptive cruise control
  • Hands-free capability

Levels of self-driving technology

In order to get a better understanding of where the industry stands on the self-driving car spectrum, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has broken everything down by sorting the technologies into six levels (from 0-to-5).

Levels 0 – 2: Driver support features

  • Level 0: Driver must be present to react to a warning or threat. For example, the car may be equipped with sensors, blind-spot alert system or lane-departure warning but has no self-driving capability.
  • Level 1: Driver support technology, such as a lane-keeping system, is considered Level 1 technology. This feature can slightly intervene to help steer the car to the center of a lane.
  • Level 2: Level 2 systems are the most sophisticated technology that’s currently sold on cars in the U.S. Although these cars allow drivers to take their hands briefly off the steering wheel, they must keep their eyes focused on the road at all times and be ready to take control of their vehicles immediately.

Levels 3 – 5: Autonomous capabilities

  • Level 3: A vehicle ranked at Level 3 can drive itself in a restricted scenario. The driver must be present and ready, however, to take over the controls when prompted.
  • Level 4: A vehicle with a Level 4 system can drive itself, but only under “perfect conditions,” such as a fixed loop on known roads. These vehicles may or may not have a steering wheel or pedals. Level 4 rideshare vehicles, such as Waymo’s (formerly Google’s self-driving car project), are in operation with limited use.
  • Level 5: A car at Level 5 will be able to drive itself on any road, in any conditions—and without any restrictions. To date, this car exists only in theory.

Are you revved up about self-driving cars? Pursuing an engineering degree at Vaughn College is a great start to find a career as an engineer in this exciting and futureproof industry. There are many engineering occupations related to the development of self-driving cars including:

  • Electrical engineer: works with anything involving electricity in the car
  • Mechanical engineer: works with vehicle mechanics and design
  • Robotics engineer: works on robots that power the car and integrated technologies
  • Validation engineer: works to test and validate the computing platforms
  • Sensor system engineer: works with sensor systems such as radar, lidar, GPS, sonar and cameras
  • Systems engineer: maintains wireless and aerospace satellite communication systems and cloud computing systems
  • Computer programmer: writes and tests computer programming code

Professionals in the self-driving car industry require strong mathematical, analytical and computer engineering skills and there’s great earning potential. Many companies around the world are actively working on autonomous vehicle technology such as Waymo, General Motors, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, Ford, BMW and Toyota.

You can also check out our blog, “Engineering Ranked Among Most Valuable College Majors” to discover even more possibilities of a Vaughn engineering degree. Apply today!