Not the Jetsons

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POSTED: January 21, 2020

Since I keep mentioning newsletters this week, I will mention something that I got in my daily Monocle Minute, which you can subscribe to at

Monocle Minute contains a number of small articles, and some advertisements. This one had no named author.

Last week Toyota became the latest car-maker to invest in a business that’s out to launch flying taxis, putting $394m (€355m) into US-based company Joby, which has also benefited from the largesse of Uber. Daimler, meanwhile, has bet on the Volocopter project. The use of the term “taxi” might hint at a new era of democratic urban air travel but that’s nonsense.

These vehicles (pictured) are cheaply made helicopters that will allow urban elites to ignore the mass-transit needs of the many. They will also allow city officials to turn a blind eye to the gridlock on their streets and add a new layer of noise to our skies. Car companies are panicking: policy-makers in Europe are demanding that they clean up their acts and many young people no longer want to own a car. Some are hoping to reinvent themselves as technology brands but cities need simple solutions – not flying taxis.

This does not sound like good news. These bear no resemblance to the flying taxis people promised in the nineteen fifties. George Jetson would not recognise them, or the damage they will cause. Or the inequality they will underwrite.

On this, Monocle and I stand in complete agreement.