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San Jose braces for increased air traffic congestion with air taxis on the horizon

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) – The next challenge facing major cities will be air traffic, the result of new manned and autonomous planes to transport people and goods.

You already know drones. Air taxis should be the next calling service. San José and other cities are scrambling to prepare and manage them.

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As if congested streets and highways weren’t tough enough, the next concern is an explosion in air traffic due to delivery drones and a new generation of vertical lift transport vehicles known as air taxis. According to some projections, air taxis could make 1.5 million trips per year over Silicon Valley.

“It’s four times what it is in the air today, so how do you integrate that in this area with both safety and noise, another quality of life. It’s a big deal, ”said Hugh Wilson, CEO of Lacuna Technologies. Lacuna is a Palo Alto company that helps cities adapt to emerging changes in mobility.

San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are part of a group of 38 cities called the Open Mobility Foundation that tries to keep ahead of rapidly developing technology. Ramsès Madou is the group’s vice-president.

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“We have to make sure that the systems are operating safely and without burning, without hum, without the rotor blades constantly spinning over your house,” said Madou, who is also responsible for transportation planning, policy and sustainability in San Jose.

NASA is also involved, developing software to help manage air traffic.

Technology has a way to evolve faster than planners realize. For example, electric scooters suddenly appeared. This has led to a rush to regulate them and, in some cases, to geo-fence them, turning them off in certain areas.

“Going from this world to thousands of drones and air taxis and using software to manage it… Cities are going to have to go up the learning curve pretty quickly,” said Martin de Lacuna.

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Time is running out with test flights that will be deployed perhaps in three or four years. And a big question is, where are they going to pick up and drop off the passengers? High-rise rooftops are likely, but all of downtown San Jose is in its airport’s flight path.

“The idea that these devices are popping up over these buildings in the flight path of these larger planes is probably a misconception,” Madou said.

Public participation will also be necessary.

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