Vahana/Airbus
Vahana/Airbus

Airbus's "Flying Car" Prototype Could Be Ready for Takeoff Within the Year

Vahana/Airbus
Vahana/Airbus

The manufacturer of the world’s largest passenger airplane is setting its sights on a much smaller form of air travel. As Reuters reports, Airbus aims to have a single-person flying car prototype ready for demonstration by the end of 2017.

Since last year, Airbus has been looking into building autonomous aircraft that can be summoned through an app, just like ground-based ride-hailing services. At this year’s DLD digital tech conference in Munich, Airbus CEO Tom Enders revealed just how close they are to reaching that goal. According to Enders, the project is "in an experimentation phase" and a demo vehicle could be ready for takeoff within the year. In addition to personal flying cars, Airbus is also exploring self-piloted helicopter-style aircraft for transporting multiple passengers at once.

Airbus hardly has a monopoly on the future of autonomous air travel. The European flying car company Lilium Aviation recently received a $10 million investment and has plans to launch full-scale test flights within the year. Uber is also looking to take short-distance travel to the skies in the near future. Building flying cars sounds like a costly endeavor, but Enders says it could end up saving cities money in the long run. "With flying, you don't need to pour billions into concrete bridges and roads," he said at the conference.

[h/t Reuters]

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The Secret to a More Pleasant Flight? Urinals
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iStock

Even if you can deal with the lack of legroom, privacy, and decent meal options on airplanes, your patience may start to wear thin when it comes time to pee. Being stuck waiting in long bathroom lines on planes may feel like one of life's unavoidable annoyances, but according to WIRED, there's a way to make the experience more tolerable. The secret involves urinals and a bit of math.

At last month's Crystal Cabin Awards, a competition that recognizes innovation in aircraft interiors, Zodiac Aerospace introduced the Durinal, a two-urinal plane bathroom that takes the place of one toilet. Replacing a bathroom that serves all passengers with one that's made for only half the population may seem like a quick way to make the long-line problem worse, but there's some logic behind the proposed solution.

As Wouter Rogiest, a mathematician at Ghent University in Belgium, tells WIRED, gender-neutral bathroom lines are shortest when men have the option to head straight for a urinal. That's because it's quicker to use a urinal than a stall, and when men opt for the urinal, it frees up stalls for women. When he drew up an equation looking at hypothetical bathroom wait times at a concert, he found that a ratio of 14 toilets to eight urinals produced the most desirable wait times: one minute, 27 seconds for women and slightly under a minute for men. On a commercial plane, this ratio would come out to one or two Durinals per six conventional bathrooms.

Rogiest's concert equation isn't a perfect stand-in for airplane scenarios, so a more specific study would be needed before airlines could consider installing urinals. Unfortunately, if bathrooms with urinals do show up on airplanes, you can expect the spaces to be just as tight as they are now.

[h/t WIRED]

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United Airlines Has Gotten Rid of Tomato Juice, and Customers Are Freaking Out
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Lovers of tomato juice are a small camp, but a vocal one. And they're furious that United Airlines has replaced their beloved Mott's tomato juice with Mr. and Mrs. T Bloody Mary Mix on all flights under four hours, which includes most of its domestic runs. United said these changes are part of efforts to “streamline” its food service, the Chicago Business Journal reports.

The stealth substitution has fueled a rebellion among loyal tomato juice fans, as The Week points out.

There is some truth to the claim that tomato juice tastes better on flights. One study revealed that the noise level on an airplane affects our perception of taste, making savory or umami flavors more delicious. Another industry-funded study said the air pressure and humidity levels make bolder drinks seem more appealing.

Premium and economy passengers flying United can also say goodbye to Sprite Zero, Jim Beam, Courvoisier, and Amaretto, which were cut from the menu. And although airlines are not exactly known for their cuisine to begin with, passengers will likely start to see a difference in the types of meals being offered. The Chicago Business Journal writes:

"The reduction in food being offered in many instances in first-class and business-class cabins is not insignificant. Hot breakfasts are being replaced on some routes with only fruit plates and muffins, and more substantial lunches are being switched out for wraps and chocolate slabs."

The airline has said it is "monitoring customer feedback."

[h/t The Week]

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