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INRIX study identifies routes with greatest potential for e-VTOL services

A new study by INRIX has identified the routes with greatest potential where Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (e-VTOL) services could instantly provide fast, reliable trips to broad geographic areas.

While the e-VTOL market is still in its infancy, the potential is massive over the long run to reshape commuting and development patterns, INRIX said.

By analyzing trillions of anonymous data points from hundreds of millions of connected devices, INRIX Research identified the current routes with the greatest market potential in the Atlanta, Austin, Boston and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

The benefits of VTOL will accrue in the the near-term to long-distance commuters from city centers. Long-term VTOL will redefine what constitutes a metropolitan area by dramatically reducing travel times between communities in a region.

A driving factor behind this potentially revolutionary disruption is the universal rule of commutes, Marchetti’s constant, which states people on average will spend one hour per day commuting. Any further and commuters will likely seek a change in employment or living locations. Whereas under ideal conditions one could live approximately 25 miles away for a car-based commute, with a VTOL service 60 miles away would become reasonable. Given the fact that for every doubling of a radius, the area of a circle quadruples, enabling commuters to go 60 miles instead of 25 would mean almost 6x larger a geographic area would be within 30-minute commute of a city’s downtown.

—“Electric Passenger Drones Could Relieve Housing Costs and Spread Growth in Nation’s Booming Cities”

Based upon current industry concepts, INRIX assumed capacity for 1-4 people, a top speed of 150 mph, and a range of 60 miles for the e-VTOL platform. Time savings were calculated using 150 mph as the cruise speed, with a 5-minute buffer for takeoff preparation and acceleration to cruising speed.

During peak hours, VTOL exhibits significant time savings compared to cars, and in Boston’s case, a time benefit over rail during all hours. However, realizing these benefits also depends on where heliport facilities are located. In order to optimize this new technology, landing pads will need to be located within current employment hubs, otherwise the benefits may be squandered traveling to and from the heliport.

Among the findings:

  • Atlanta. Atlanta is characterized by low-density suburbs, expansive highway networks, and low transit user-ship. Three exurbs stood out in analysis based upon volume and congestion severity: Kennesaw, Apharetta, and Buford. While closer destinations along these corridors are good candidates for e-VTOL too, these destinations capture the massive time savings from e-VTOL: up to 41 minutes one-way from Alpharetta to Atlanta during peak car hours.

  • Austin. Two major water features—Lake Travis and the Colorado River—impact driving in the area. The river effectively splits the western portion of Austin into two major corridors on Highway 183 and State Route 71. E-VTOL users could have much more direct routes on these routes throughout Austin and avoid chronic congestion in the downtown area.

  • Boston. The greatest proportion of trips in Boston occur on major highway or Interstate corridors, in particular I-90 and I-93. E-VTOL services would reduce times from suburbs for car and rail services.

  • San Francisco. As opposed to the radial distribution of viable routes characteristic to Boston, San Francisco’s geography defines high potential corridors: Highway 101 to Silicon Valley and Interstate I-80 to Oakland and Walnut Creek. E-VTOL services could provide congestion relief along the 101 in particular.

Overall, VTOL has massive potential, and a large existing potential market. Its probable early adoption will occur in wealthier suburbs going into downtown cores.

However, in the long run as the feasible commute area increases and costs decline, passenger drones could provide growth relief to expensive cities. The lower capital costs of VTOL could also make small- and medium-sized cities attractive to businesses and residents. Inserting a VTOL facility in a small town is far more economical than investments in rail or road infrastructure. While still early, the potential for VTOL services is just now being realized, by employing data, and prudent planning, this exciting new technology could significantly improve society’s wellbeing.

—“Electric Passenger Drones Could Relieve Housing Costs and Spread Growth in Nation’s Booming Cities”


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