The time to figure out your enterprise’s flying car strategy is near-ish

flying-car

OK, the subject line in the FORTUNE Data Sheet email newsletter I just received is getting somewhat ahead of things (“Finally, flying cars”), but it did its job and made me read Aaron Pressman’s short post within.

Make no mistake, there are several flying vehicle prototypes already airborne, as a quick search on YouTube will show. But the day when regular people will own and use flying vehicles to commute to work, visit the in-laws, and pick up some groceries isn’t nigh.

That’s because, in some ways, the technology is the easy part. The truth is, a lot has to happen before flying cars are available to the masses and for routine commercial use, including the creation of regulations, infrastructure, and economic motivation. “Maybe the key missing component all these years wasn’t finding someone to build a vehicle that could fly and drive,” Pressman writes. “It was finding someone who could develop a business case to build a whole ecosystem supporting flying cars and make the expense of developing the technology worthwhile.”

Enter Uber, which announced at the recent Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, a Space Act Agreement with NASA to jointly develop a plan for “unmanned traffic management” at low altitudes. Uber’s goal isn’t a flying car in every suburban garage; rather, the company wants to build a business supplying “on-demand urban air transportation,” or flying vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft for hire.

While the company announced last April plans to test VTOLs in Dallas and Dubai by the year 2020, the partnership with NASA is Uber’s first with a federal agency. “Doing this safely and efficiently is going to require a foundational change in airspace management technologies,” Jeff Holden, chief product officer at Uber, said in a statement.

In addition to its work with NASA, Uber announced at Web Summit that it also would test VTOLs in Los Angeles by 2020, with an eye toward have the service ready for commercial use when the city hosts the Olympics in 2028.

That’s 11 years away — which, for enterprises, basically means tomorrow. Do we really need to start asking questions such as:

  • How will flying vehicles fit into your enterprise’s competitive strategy?
  • How will you determine the return on investment or total cost of ownership?
  • Who will manage and service these flying vehicles?
  • What are the compliance requirements?
  • How will you accommodate the use of flying cars by employees?
  • What are the potential liabilities?

It really puts managing an enterprise BYOD program into perspective.

RELATED LINKS

Airport of the future: From vision to reality

Connected streets empower connected cars

Should cities put the brakes on self-driving cars?

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