This marks the first time that GM has publicly mentioned the emerging air taxi space.
At a time when automakers are searching for solutions to the problems of gridlock and urban mobility, one potential future fix has arrived in the form of flying "air taxis". They're essentially electric VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft capable of transporting small groups of people over short distances, flying at low altitudes instead of contributing to cities' worsening street traffic congestion. Hyundai was among the first global automakers to announce a new pet project involving air taxis, although Daimler, Toyota, Volkswagen, and China's Geely have all started exploring the technology, as well.
Now, according to Reuters, GM is looking to join the action.
If at this point you're envisioning a Chevrolet Bolt EV folding in its wheels, producing a set of propellers and taking off into the sky, don't hold your breath; most early prototypes have more in common visually with remote-controlled quadricopters, or drones, than with road-going cars.
But GM's air taxis could borrow at least one major component from its passenger EVs: the automaker's next-generation Ultium battery tech. "We believe strongly in our EV future and not just for vehicles," CEO Mary Barra said Monday at an RBC conference. "The strength and flexibility of our Ultium battery system opens doors" to other applications, she said, "including aerial mobility."
That marked GM's first-ever reference to getting involved in the burgeoning air taxi space, and Reuters quoted GM spokesperson Stuart Fowle as saying "it's an area we're really excited about and looking at." GM's involvement could conceivably include supplying components like batteries to other air taxi manufacturers, manufacturing their own air taxis, or partnering with another company in that space as many other automakers are doing.
An air taxi project within GM could be synergistic with the automaker's autonomous driving program, benefiting from the autonomous car division's years of experience with sensor technology, machine vision, and automated controls. But as for when we might expect to see fleets of GM air taxis ferrying people to and fro across the skies of our cities, we imagine that's at least a decade away.