| Detroit Free Press
General Motors has inched slightly closer to fulfilling its quest to put the world in flying cars.
As part of the 2021 virtual Consumer Electronics Show on Tuesday, GM showed renderings and animation of what it dubbed its Cadillac Halo concepts: the Cadillac Personal Autonomous Vehicle, which is like a fancy self-driving taxi, and Cadillac Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) vehicle, a sleek and futuristic drone-like flying car.
“The VTOL is GM’s first foray into air travel,” said Michael Simcoe, GM’s vice president of global design. Advances in electric vehicles and other technology are now “making personal air travel possible,” he said.
Simcoe’s presentation came in the middle of GM CEO Mary Barra’s keynote address to CES, the annual exhibition normally held in Las Vegas that features the latest technology.
Simcoe said the VTOL is a concept designed for “the moment where time is of the essence.”
Then a video shows an animated future that is straight out of the Jetsons. The VTOL is meant for short jaunts about town. Simcoe gives the example of a person working at their office and needing to rush to another meeting across town.
“The VTOL meets you on the roof and takes you to your meeting across town and drops you off at the VTOL-aport nearest to your destination,” Simcoe said.
The aircraft would have four rotors powered by a 90 kilowatt-hour electric motor. It would be capable of speeds of up to 56 mph, Simcoe said. It would have air-to-air and air-to-ground communications, a personal space compartment and a panoramic view of the world as it passes below you.
But that’s about all GM is saying about it. GM is not offering further technical details such as whether it would be autonomous. Nor did GM provide a time frame for when VTOL might be produced. In the video, it appears to be a single-seat aircraft.
But Simcoe said GM has more concepts of flying cars coming, including a two-seater “for you and someone special for more intimate journeys.”
This is hardly the first time GM has talked about putting cars in the sky. In 2018, GM leaders told the audience at the FT Future of the Car Summit USA in Detroit that GM has had conversations with “air taxi” companies about using the carmaker’s autonomous and electric vehicle technology to create flying cars.
Last September, GM again said it was considering its options in the aerial taxi market. In fact that was the first time Barra mentioned the air taxi idea at an RBC Capital Markets virtual conference.
Simcoe also showed the Cadillac Personal Autonomous Vehicle, a design concept to allow a family or a group of friends to spend time together on the way to a destination, Simcoe said.
The vehicle would have an “expansive glass roof” to allow passengers a connection to the outdoors, “but encourages eyes to turn inside to focus on one another,” Simcoe said.
There are biometric sensors to gauge passengers’ vital signs and the vehicle will then automatically adjust the temperature and humidity, lighting, ambient noise and other functions for passengers’ optimal comfort.
Again, GM is not offering any details on a production date for such a vehicle as it continues to test its self-driving cars. Just last month, Cruise, GM’s self-driving arm, started sending driverless cars onto certain San Francisco streets.
“This year, the product will become more tangible, more usable and some of you may get to use it,” Kyle Vogt, CEO of Cruise, said Tuesday during the same presentation with Simcoe and Barra.
During the presentation, Barra introduced GM’s new start-up, BrightDrop, which will provide EV and other technology to delivery companies.
Barra said GM’s technological advances in battery development and other investments mean “the pieces are now in place” for a world of electrification that will reduce emissions and improve safety.