North Texas

Flying Taxis, Driverless Cars, Texas Hyperloop Being Discussed Friday

Transportation Summit looks at futuristic solutions to today's traffic troubles

Flying taxis and driverless cars are quickly becoming less like futuristic science fiction and more like actual solutions to the transportation troubles of today.

Both of those are subjects that will be topics of discussion Friday at the 9th Annual Northeast Tarrant Transportation Summit, one of the largest transportation events in Texas.

This year’s summit will focus on how tech innovations in the transportation industry are impacting North Texas today, according to information provided by the organizers.

The summit comes on the heels of President Trump announcing his new, $1.5 trillion infrastructure initiative, which is focused on rebuilding the nation’s crumbling highways, bridges and dams.

The man who will give the Welcome at Friday’s summit, Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes, supports any idea that helps keep the traffic flowing in fast-growing Texas. However, when it comes to state or Federal dollars, he claims they will only go so far.

“It is not going to be enough money I can promise you that. It is nowhere near enough money to take care [of our transportation problems.]” Fickes said. “We are the fastest-growing state in the country. It is not going to solve our problems.”

That is why Fickes said Friday’s summit will focus on four futuristic ideas for how to combat growing gridlock: smart cities, Uber Elevate, autonomous vehicles and Hyperloop One.

Uber Elevate is a joint venture between Uber, Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopters and Hillwood Properties. The companies are working on developing a drone-style helicopter that would allow people to avoid commuting in traffic altogether.

The project is being tested in Dubai and in Dallas-Fort Worth, according to an earlier announcement. Fickes said the work is going on now at Fort Worth’s Alliance Airport, and that the initial test route will travel between Alliance and the City of Frisco.

“Now I'm not sure I want to be the first guy who gets in that thing, but it is being worked on right now,” Fickes said with a laugh.

Hyperloop One is massive undertaking between Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin.

It would be a supersonic tunnel system that would allow for travel up to 500 miles per hour.

“We’re a privately-held company out to reinvent transportation to eliminate the barriers of time and distance and unlock vast economic opportunities,” the company states on its website, with a stated goal of becoming operational by 2021.

There is a team of researchers working on this project in Dallas-Fort Worth, part of a Texas Hyperloop pitch that made it past an original round of pitches last year for potential routes. The project promises to whisk travelers from Dallas to Austin in 19 minutes.

“The great thing about it is that all four [of these topics] even though they sound very futuristic - and they are futuristic - they are actually being worked on here in the DFW-area by a lot of people,” Fickes said. “A lot of people are employed right now, today drawing a check, making money and making things happen that we think is futuristic, but it is reality.”

The Summit starts at 8 Friday morning at the Hurst Conference Center.

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