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Hyundai Is Stepping Into the Air Taxi Race

Hyundai

That race is still mostly hypothetical. But still: big step!

Hyundai is entering the increasingly crowded world of urban air mobility (UAM) with a new hire from NASA.

Jaiwon Shin will be tasked with getting the company up to speed with competitors ranging from Uber to Honeywell, as Hyundai expects the flying car industry represents a global opportunity.

While some governments have expressed enthusiasm about the idea, there are many logistical problems that remain at the core.

Hyundai is entering the still mostly hypothetical world of flying cars, announcing a new head of its newly formed Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Division. Jaiwon Shin, formerly of NASA, will be tasked with "developing smart mobility products within the aviation industry," according to a company press release.

"Having worked on cutting-edge aviation research and development at NASA for 30 years, I am very excited and humbled by the opportunity to now shape urban air mobility strategy at Hyundai Motor Group,” Shin says. “The new team at Hyundai will develop core technologies that will establish the company as a driving force in urban air mobility, a sector that is expected to grow into a market worth USD 1.5 trillion within the next 20 years."

Hyundai has company in betting that UAM will usher in a new era of flight, one focused on aircraft designed to send small groups of travelers, generally nine or fewer, on short flights within urban areas. There are dozens of companies around the planet competing to get an edge on the technology, from giants like Airbus to smaller companies like Germany's VoloCopter.

Some cities, like Dubai, are openly embracing the technology. The city's transit authority wants to transition at least 25 percent of all of its passenger travel to be autonomous by as early as 2030, and the air taxis that began testing in 2017 could play a role in that future.

But there are a number of challenges facing any potential entrants into the still-emerging sector. As listed by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao during her address at the Uber Elevate summit earlier this year, an industry conference hosted by the ride-sharing company that hopes to enter the UAM field, the public has "legitimate concerns about safety, security, privacy and noise."

Shin is coming to Hyundai to handle some of those concerns. The South Korea-based company mentions his expertise in "revolutionary airframe, engine, aviation safety, and air traffic management technologies."

The company's press release only states that Hyundai will develop "core technologies and innovative solutions for safe and efficient airborne travel." It's ultimately too soon to say what Hyundai's investment will look like, but it's possible the company will look to fill a support role in building out the infrastructure needed for the technology to operate on a mass scale, as opposed to building its own UAM vehicles outright. From landing to license plates, there will be a lot of infrastructure needed.

This article was originally published on popularmechanics