69 points by prostoalex
2 months ago
I really wish all the money that gets funneled into trying to re-invent travel (self-driving buses, hyper-loop, boring company, this, etc) could get invested into developing competent American public transit networks based on technology that already exists.
The amount of money put into these R&D projects is small in the grand scheme of things. The entire eVTOL space is ~$5bn. Compare this with $6.5bn for the replacement span of the Oakland Bay Bridge or $113bn for California’s non-existent high speed rail.
> $113bn for California’s non-existent high speed rail.
Those are some serious costs. The cost of the TGV links in France are definitely in the 10s of billions but no 100s of billions.
Are you sure those budgets aren't getting eaten by consultants or lawyers doing the impact assessments? Even with higher labour costs that is a pretty steep hike.
The opportunities for siphoning money to certain factions may be seen as the real purpose of the project, with any actual train more or less incidental. The same may be seen in recent nuclear power projects, urban tunnels, NASA's SLS rocket, and numerous military procurements, F-35 prominent among them.
Actual completion of a project means the money spigot is turned off, which nobody involved wants ever to happen. But sometimes an end is inevitable, and if foreseen, actual delivery of a product might be effected, to save face, as for the case of Finland's nuke.
Government procurement is a broken process today. The railroad companies were reimbursed once the track was set down. We need that for modern projects. Then competent people will get the job done and get paid.
How would you change the political culture of the US to go back to the mid 1800s without all the drawbacks of back then?
NASA, SLS aside, is doing arguably non-broken procurement. SLS of course costs more than everything else combined.
Very numerous cash-strapped municipal transit projects manage to avoid wasting money. It is well understood how not to waste money when that is actually intended. It is why we can be sure that waste is the whole point on such high-cost projects, better-equipped than others to engage competent management. Ensuring "waste" goes only where intended and not to others must be hard.
I’d be very careful of using the word ‘waste’ as many large programs would never have been passed through Congress in the first place without the ‘waste’ guaranteeing critical votes, such as the SLS. As in the alternative between ‘waste’ would likely be no program instead of some idealized ‘less wasteful’ program.
Ye you need to be hard as steel -- like SAP -- and call the bluff by just failing until the sunk cost is so high there can't be another cent added.
Ok then. Can we funnel all the marketing, spin and hype towards existing public transport?
Serious question - how would you actually spin and hype something that already exists?
It just reminds me of that old soviet-era joke that goes something like this:
First grade teacher in Moscow: "Kids, today I want to teach you all about how life is great in the Soviet Union. In the Soviet Union we have the tastiest food, the most fun toys, the most interesting shows ..."
Kids: "Oh, teacher, that sounds amazing, can we please go visit the Soviet Union?"
You realise all these new fangled things are old things with a different spin.
The boring company makes something worse than the underground. Evtol is basically helicopters, etc.
If there is an hourly train one could say there are 60 moments at which one could chose to travel. In the worse one you've missed it by 0-1 min. It seems reasonable to add the average 30 min to the travel time + margins.
One could similarly say there are 60 moments to arrive in an hour. Your appointment could live at the most unfortunate. It seems reasonable to add the average 30 min to the trip again.
If the train stops a lot it might be close to accelerating and decelerating most of the time. It seems reasonable to lose half the possible for speed.
If it doesn't stop a lot it might take a long time to get to the station.
If you need to take 2 trains you might have to wait for the second.
Buses and taxis stop far away from the train and traffic is unpredictable.
No matter how fast the train is, it can still take a long time to get places.
There are countless puzzles left to solve.
That is a solved puzzle, public transport is not a new concept, most city dwellers outside of the US rely on it.
From the passenger point of view, you simply plan your travel if the train only comes once an hour. Nobody arrives at random to such an infrequent mode of transportation. Once an hour probably means it's intercity travel.
From the networks point of view: you constantly monitor travel patterns and optimise frequencies, connections, train lengths etc. With driverless trains the trade-offs are fewer, hence you never need to worry about when the next Copenhagen metro comes.
You lost me at “plan your travel”. Logistically, public transportation is awful. You can’t bring any cargo with you, you can’t tow anything, you need to buy an expensive ticket for each person (Even a compact car can fit 5 people), trains don’t turn around if you have a family emergency, and the comfort level of the most advanced trains in Europe and Japan frankly sucks compared to even a mid-level SUV in the most basic trim.
Don’t get me wrong, public transportation is an interesting novelty. But for short trips it’s worse than a car, and for long trips it’s inferior to an airplane. There’s a sweet spot where it works if you’re trying to beat commuter traffic but I’d say that’s about it. The people trying to spend billions to build out these networks have an agenda and frankly I’d prefer if we just fixed our roads and airports.
It’s only a novelty in the US. In other rich countries where people don’t have a car fetish it’s just the most practical and comfortable way to get to work.
Obviously if you need to tow something you can’t use the metro, but that’s a very rare need on the whole. Then you take the car, cursing traffic and the parking situation.
Here in Copenhagen you’ll often see carpenters and similar with cargo bikes, so it’s not like you always need a huge SUV to move some tools, or indeed children.
Cars are almost never the fastest way to get somewhere in a city. Americans love them for cultural reasons, not because it’s practical. Like in poor countries cars are a still a symbol of freedom and wealth in the US, most of the rich world has moved on from that mindset.
Helicopters are locked out of many markets by noise and worries about safety of bystanders. The promise of eVTOLs is access to those.
Why are evtols safer than helicopters for bystanders? They both have the spinny blady things.
Re noise, most of the sound comes from the rotors rather than the engine. It's not obvious to me that an evtol craft could significantly improve this.
There seems to be an assumption that evtol == multiple ducted fans. This isn't necessarily the case. And electric helicopter would be evtol. Any specific design is going to have different tradeoffs. Eg more motors to fail.
It's really funny that eVTOL solves nothing, but funded
You are right about Musk's silly tunnels, but VTOL is much better than helicopters. They combine the convenient landing and taking off of helicopters with the fuel economy of fixed wing flight, i.e. airplanes. If it can be made electric then even better.
Where does the fuel economy come from? What design are we talking about?
Fixed wing aircraft are of course much more efficient than helicopters, so the best combo is really a vtol, that has fixed wings but can land vertically.
Not Just Bikes does it well
I suppose you mean this YouTube channel - https://www.youtube.com/c/notjustbikes ?
It seems that it's hyping the idea of having good public transport, but that doesn't address the chicken-and-egg problem, does it? What I mean is, that most cities seem to have mediocre public transport, and people don't want to use it, so proponents of public transport can't get the budgets to improve it, because there's demonstrably low usage. So how do you use a limited budget to "hype and spin" the existing public transport to prove that your particular city would benefit from higher investment in public transport?
The only solution I see is to actually go and set up a new and better route, to prove that your city does in fact have demand for public transport.
I thought it was a pun on spinning.
Okay, so you take an $80 billion yearly budget and dump an extra fraction of a billion on top. Is that going to do much?
I'd rather risk it on an attempt to make self-driving busses. Getting more development money for electric planes is a nice side effect too, but just in terms of improving transit, reducing the need for drivers would be massive.
I wasn't aware that the lack of drivers is what was holding up public transit.
It's not. What would make Americans take the bus is frequency, reliability, cleanliness and free wifi. And fucking bus lanes.
But that's boring isn't it?
Americans don't take the bus because they don't want to sit next to the type of people who can't afford a car or get a driver's license.
What would make Americans take buses would also be if they just stopped openly hating homeless people as a matter of life.
And if you save a lot of money, you can improve all of those.
Presumably their wages is meant.
Labor, not just by drivers but also mechanics and other staff, is a substantial part of transit costs. Cutting fuel cost makes wages a bigger fraction. Reduced maintenance load of an electric fleet could be important.
But that is more the cost of other stuff. I bet the difference in costs between driver and self-driving vehicles that are as reliably and safe as bus drivers is not that much. Mechanics etc... would still need to exist for driverless vehicles just as much. I think creating electric busses is much needed, without dumping lots of money into making them autonomous at the start.
Well, electric busses have already been created. We need a lot of them, for sure, but an extra half percent on the budget isn't going to replace fleets. I'm happy for that money, all paid for by random investors, to go into further-flung research.
To a great extent, the hyping of infeasible transit plans by a car company is intended to crowd out sensible discussion about public transport.
You can see it in any major East Coast city: you need to get 1 million people from the suburbs into the city center between 7 and 9am and the only reliable way to do it is subways and rail.
In Boston, which has a hub-and-spoke transit system that is oriented towards getting people downtown to an almost absurd degree, the numbers bear out that the T takes about as many people in and out of downtown as the freeways do by car. The report below states about 500,000 cars enter Boston via its main highways, and about 500,000 people take the T, daily.
TL;DR: Only Tres Comma Club members will be affected
> Startup’s closing marks an exit from a crowded industry
Surprising.. Who else is competing to be an "air taxi"!?
It's linked from the article. Archer Aviation, Joby Aviation, Lilium, Vertical Aerospace are some.
> Hundreds of companies, new ones and legacy aviation players alike, are working on such vehicles—also called air taxis or eVTOLs (short for electric vertical take off and landing). Five such startups have gone public in the past 12 months. They are trying to shape a near future in which taking a flying cab is an economically viable alternative to taking a terrestrial one.
Related - first electric commuter jet, that everyone on HN thought was a scam, just had its first flight: https://tcrn.ch/3frler3
(Electric props, not a jet.)
Blows my mind we are going to have commercial electric planes BEFORE they bother to get poisonous lead out of avgas for decades after knowing it was deadly
FAA has approved G100UL though. Now it is just a matter of scaling up + distribution.
As crazy as it sounds, getting a conventional (as opposed to eVTOL) aircraft in the air is easier than replacing the fuel thousands of legacy aircraft engines.
Sure, but that’s a lobbying thing. AVgas isn’t what runs jet engines (as I’m sure you know), it’s what runs hobbyist planes.
And given how many other externalities there are to hobbyist flying (noise, airports on prime land, etc.) US hobby pilots find their way onto various political committees almost as matter of survival.
It also doesn’t hurt that the average hobbyist pilot is a wealthy white man above 40.
Lobbying by pilots might redirect some money to upgrade someone's favorite small airport but their influence pales in comparison to long standing national security doctrine. Pilots and airports are part of our emergency infrastructure, the kind you don't think you need until the worst happens like a natural disaster. The FAA, FEMA, and the DoD take that kind of preparedness very seriously so they pretty much refuse to come down on private aviation as long as there's not enough PPLs for their liking.
Unrelated, but wow. From having a super crappy popup, TC and friends went to 3 clicks to turn off all "legitimate" interest permissions. That’s actually quite impressive.
But why did they think it was a scam? The linked article only claims an 8 minute flight, so if it's concern about battery weight (which is the only concern I can think of) then the test flight still doesn't really answer that.
Apparently the company had pivoted from a completely unrelated industry and had very few employees with aerospace backgrounds: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18620766
Just give me one of those jetpacks that was poppin' up everywhere recently on reddit and twitter.
Toss 'em all over the city like Birds and let people zip around in 3-d space lol.
Why have such large vehicles? Think small, think big.
Super loud and dangerous...
First thing that comes to mind is Uber Blade. Haven't had a chance to use it personally as my flights always seem to come in to late, though.
A couple are mentioned in the article: Wisk (invested in by Boeing), and Eve (backed by United Airlines)
It's probably the most crowded market for an unproven market category.
There's literally a hundred across the globe.
One very efficient way of making travel faster is by taking out a lot of current traffic. We should redesign our cities so people simply need to travel less. Make things available to communities at the door step. More smaller grocery stores dotted than those super mega stores. More coworking offices with a hot desk model instead of big offices crammed in downtown. More bars, clubs, entertainment in residential areas for their residents. More schools, libraries, restaurants, coffee shops, etc. where people live. That would be much better. Maybe that combined with fast trains and subways which are not packed, run frequent and are clean will fix most of those issues which we think we have today.
There used to be smaller grocery stores all over the place. Customers didn't like them due to high prices and limited selection. It's cheaper and more time efficient to drive to a big supermarket or Costco and load up your car with everything you need.
Do you have a source for this claim? All the urbanists will tell you that small grocery stores are a joy to use in Europe due to transit oriented development that makes quick trips by bike to grab groceries fast and easy. But in North America we’ve built out larger and larger car-centric developments which have become so hostile to anyone not in a car that people are forced to drive to the grocery store. This makes the experience way less enjoyable than a quick trip by bike to a small store, the urbanists will say.
So your claim is that small stores were essentially selected out of existence by customers, but it may in fact be the case that city planners destroyed walkability in a way that left big box stores as the only viable option. Those two things are not the same, as the theoretical “we could have more smaller stores accessible by bike and foot traffic” would be true in the latter case.
For a detailed argument see the YouTube channel Not Just Bikes:
Small grocery stores in Europe are miserable to use. They're always missing some of the stuff I want. Customers will usually choose the big box stores when they have a reasonable way to get there, regardless of urban planning.
Here’s a video about why small grocery stores are better called “Why Grocery Shopping is Better in Amsterdam”:
This is why I asked you for a source. We can play anecdote versus anecdote all day. In the absence of a source I’d be very curious what you think of any specific points made in the video.
> One major issue is there aren’t enough places for these vehicles to take off and land.
Is that really a "major" contributor?
Isn't it the number one reason all "flying car" proposals are doomed to fail? They don't violate physics and the '3d driving is too hard' problem could in principle be solved with software. But they simply don't fit into our society. They literally don't fit. Even if you can fit a VTOL on a suburban driveway, it would be too dangerous and noisy to not get banned. The space requirements are such that they could only work in rural areas, which severely limits their utility and consequently their commercial viability.
Roofs? I mean, bringing a flying thing on a busy city street where it has to contend with everything from wires to delivery drones does seem like a bad ideas, but landing on the roof of your office building is pretty much ideal, and doesn't seem to need major infrastructure.
You won't be able to call one up to a street corner, but that doesn't necessarily mean there's no money to make. The first thing they'll do is just take the helicopter market and slide the supply/demand curves to wherever they can go at 1/10 of the price. Only when this is done they need to look for completely different models.
The helicopter market doesn't really cover personal transport, unless you're talking about the ultra-rich. And unless the roof of an office building already has a heli-pad, it's not getting landed on.
One could argue the classic path of technology is to bring to everybody what was once available only to the ultra rich. There was a nice infographic on how an iPhone replaced roughly a million worth of equipment in the 90s.
The ultra-rich heli market may be small in relative terms, but it's there. Much easier to expand it 100x than to build a new one. And once you do, you're in a good position to try something else - your tech is proven, you have a fleet, you're bringing in cash.
The iPhone analogy is a bit of a stretch. I'm not sure what "millions of equipment" it replaced. If you're referring to software, the PC or Blackberry was already accessible to those who weren't ultra-rich.
As for the heli market, the vehicle holds one person, not 2+, and can't fly as far as a heli. But it is less about consumer demand and more about the infrastructure, excessive noise, airspace constraints, and the dozens of other public-facing issues that would arise with any attempt at expanding that market.
Helicopters have already been greatly restricted / banned in some cities, particularly NYC.
Mostly for noise, and safety. Those blades slicing past worry people.
It is hard to believe these will be very much quieter than a chopper.
Safety particularly. In 1977 on the heliport of the Pan Am building (aka the MetLife building), a helicopter's landing gear broke which caused the helicopter to tip over and the rotor to break. Pieces of the rotor killed four people on the roof, fell to the street below, and killed another person on the ground. It took emergency responders about an hour to get onto the roof because the elevators in the building shut down. The public was already wary of the danger of helicopters (as well as being annoyed by the noise), and this incident confirmed their fears. Since then, heliports on buildings in NYC have been severely restricted, for a time banned completely, I believe, but 3 rooftop heliports are still active in NYC.
Another helicopter crash in 2019 suggests another danger. A helicopter crash landed on the roof of a skyscraper and caught fire. The pilot was the only person killed that time, but it took firefighters about an hour to put the fire out. They apparently got it under control without too much difficulty and were lauded for a quick response.. but what if that helicopter had been packed full of lithium batteries? Lithium battery car fires are notoriously hard to put out. Such a fire on the roof of a tall building seems like a serious concern to me.
There are 3 heliports in NYC (West 30th Street Heliport, Downtown Heliport / Wall Street Heliport, TSS / 34th Street Heliport), but there are _no_ rooftop heliports since the 1977 accident.
There is no way the iPhone replaces equipment valued at 1M.
"valued at 1M ten years ago". If you add up stuff like GPS, sat phone, camera, video conferencing gear and so on, it gets expensive fast. We've had all of that stuff for decades, it's just nobody could afford it.
But the iPhone didn't replace that stuff. There's still so much software and infrastructure involved. For example, you can't do video conferencing on 3G. The iPhone didn't bring with it 4G LTE
I wouldn't be surprised if some $1M dollar piece of equipment was replicated in a smart phone.
Hell, the blue led was invented in the 90s, how much would you value the first blue led at?
Sure it's possible to build helipads on roofs. But those usually have to be designed in from the start and very few buildings have them. It's tough to add one to an existing building due to weight limits and obstructions from antennas and HVAC machinery. Real estate developers won't take on that expense until VTOL aircraft become more popular, so it's a "chicken or the egg" problem.
I looked up some weights. Helicopters (other than ultra-light) are measured in tons, and that's indeed something you don't want on a roof that's not designed for it. But this kind of VTOLs will most likely be equivalent to ultra light helicopters, so I can imagine building a metal platform on top of the HVAC machinery.
No these eVTOL air taxis will have to be roughly the same weight as a regular turbine powered helicopter in order to be able to carry a useful load. Batteries are heavy.
Ultralight helicopters are limited to 254 pounds vehicle weight. While that does make it easier to build suitable rooftop helipads without major structural renovations, such aircraft can't be used for air taxi service. It isn't legally allowed, and even if the law was changed they wouldn't have enough load capacity or range to do anything useful.
More like they'll take the luxury cars market. You don't have to drive/fly one regularly, owning is often enough.
I wonder how well they'd scale if they became wide-spread enough to actually be an alternative to ground-based transportation. Would there need to be a complicated air-traffic control network to prevent collisions? Would there be "flying roads" complete with their own traffic jams like in the jetsons? Would popular destinations have long queues of vehicles waiting for their turn to land on the helipad?
We already have an air-traffic control network to prevent collisions. It works pretty well, except for general aviation aircraft without TCAS flying under VFR near non-towered airports.
We already have flying roads to manage an orderly flow. Air traffic controllers will sometimes hold aircraft on the ground to prevent congestion and maintain the minimum safe separation intervals. At busy airports sometimes aircraft are forced to circle in the pattern several times waiting their turn to land.
I know that, but thats for a comparably small number of large aircraft landing at a single designated location. It wouldn't scale at all to a city-wide air taxi service.
It's not just for large aircraft. ATC manages flights to many smaller airports as well including charters and private aircraft. The system scales pretty well. There's no realistic prospect of having thousands of air taxis in flight at once above a single city, that's just never going to happen and not worth considering.
They could work in Alaska where personal bush and float planes are common. VTOL would avoid having lakes filled up with float planes.
Maybe, but I think range and cargo capacity are important to Alaskans that rely on bush planes. VTOLs, particularly electric ones, can't compete in these regards.
Really? I would have thought the 3 down sides to electric planes would be refuelling infrastructure. Sensitivity to cold, and limited range.
Most of these planes are used as puddle jumpers in the first place: they aren't used because of the long distances involved, they are used because of terrain. Refueling infrastructure is pretty easy (Alaska has grids, A LOT of localized hydro).
I don't see how the piloting problem could be solved with software. These new VTOL aircraft are going to have to be in the same airspace as other light aircraft flying under VFR. How are they going to see and avoid without a licensed pilot? Cameras aren't good enough yet in adverse lighting conditions.
At least one fits in 3 parking stalls. Renting them like Electrify America.
On one hand, the lack of landing places is a problem. On the other, the whole idea of an Air Taxi Service is sufficiently ridiculous as to render a ranking of problems somewhat academic.
It ain't a "taxi" if it doesn't get you from where you are to where you want to be. Sounds like a major showstopper to me...
It is a major showstopper in the same way that the lack of widespread huge trampolines installations is a major showstopper for my giant cannon based transit concept. Sure it is a problem but is it the problem?
exactly - no place to land was counterpoint no1 lol
One of legs is a major body part of an elephant.
> Kittyhawk says on its LinkedIn page that the company has flown and made over 100 aircraft
Wow. Wonder where all these are?
Ohhh time to keep an eye on Ebay!
Buzzing the Navy off of San Diego.
As central european I don’t see the problem to solve here. Getting to work (which is let’s day 100km away), typically there is a fast train to get there. If it doesn’t at least a regional train will get you to a hub. For the last mile you either have one more bus or companies offer shuttle bus. You can fill up TGVs or other high speed train efficiently, no TSA.
I would rather invest in short distance highspeed solution to simplify commuters living in suburbs and stop congesting cities.
It's hard to catch the train when your elected officials will sell them off to their friends for $5 as soon as they are built after twenty years of funnelling money into their construction business.
The proposed vertiport symbol by the FAA:
is highly reminiscent of the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (11th century AD):
Apart from helicopters for well off finance people and travellers to Monaco landing with their private jets at Nice, there is one example of this kind of thing already: the sea plane from Copenhagen to Aarhus. The boarding point is within walking distance from the Royal Palace and it doesn't seem that expensive.
wow, I recently started a role at Aarhus. This one is definately going on the bucket list
It's only about 100 dollars, so you can put it pretty high up on the list...
Why do they even start with auch things?
Rich execs who lost all relations to day to day living?
Taxi are expensive, air taxi adds a trained pilot, airspace handling (permission hell), additional space requirements AND airtaxi maintenance.
All the reasons why I don't fly my own little plain.
The civilian air taxi thing is obviously a pipe dream. Not going to happen.
But in the process of failing in that market, some of these eVTOL companies might create some IP that would be very attractive as an acquisition target for the major aerospace defense contractors. It's probably impossible today to build an air taxi that would meet FAA certification safety requirements while still being cheap enough for profitable operations in US airspace. But it might fit the resupply or medevac mission for ground troops under enemy fire. The military doesn't have to make a profit, and they're more flexible on safety requirements. So it's a long shot but some of these investments might turn a profit.
It's appealing to people who don't want to drive because they don't want to have to deal with other drivers and who don't want to use public transit (even if it were improved) because they don't want to be exposed to yucky poor people.
The requirements for piloting this being more expensive and bureaucratic than for driving a taxi are a plus because it means you only have to deal with a pilot (well-groomed, stylish, sexy) and not a taxi driver (nasty, smelly, weird accent).
Much like all "privately owned public transit substitute" startups, yes, the target demographic is obnoxious rich people.
This response seems overly resentment motivated.
> Why do they even start with auch things?
Because somebody is happy to give you money for it. That somebody might themselves be getting money from someone else for such a project.
It doesn't have to be viable or lead to a successful business. If you can live the "founder lifestyle" and get a decent salary for yourself and your friends while bolstering your resume (since such failures aren't seen as bad by the industry), a lot of people will be happy to do it.
This happens very frequently in software/SaaS startups but there's no reason it can't happen with physical things.
Big player is Eve. Check them out https://eveairmobility.com/
Is it even in production? Also, hard to compare the two when the Eve is 30ft x 50ft, more than twice the size of a small helicopter
How loud are these?
Hell, I think the drone was quiter than the sliding door on the hanger!
Unbearably loud. No chance these will ever fly in a city.
Waverunners in your airbase
We need airship, not a lifesize drone
Airships aren't going to be viable as air taxis either. Too expensive, too slow, too vulnerable to bad weather. The only real use case for airships is delivery of bulky cargo (like wind turbine blades) to remote areas that lack transportation infrastructure.
People underestimate (total) transit time. Yes, flight from city A to B is only an hour. But you need another hour, each, for Ubering between home and terminal. And checking in. And waiting for everything in between. And delay. All that and 5 hours gone.
Personally, I prefer to get in a car, be a couch potato, and when I wake up, I've reached my destination.
For short to medium distances I think trains offer superior comfort. Train stations can be put in cities so they're much easier to get to. No TSA (I think that's still the case?), you can walk into the train station and straight onto the train. When flying I plan on getting to the airport two hours early but when traveling by train I only arrive 5-10 minutes before the train is scheduled to board.
High speed rail is competitive even at a “medium” distance of 1000-1500km. It’s so much nicer to have a comfortable and completely predictable three and a half hour train ride compared to the air travel counterpart, especially at a similar price point, which means economy class, or economy plus at best. (I’ve taken plenty of these trips in China.)
But Chinese HSR stations are mostly located far away from city centers, so you are still stuck taking a taxi in heavy traffic to and from the station unless it is somehow connected well by public transportation.
It’s a wash to say Beijing to Changsha is better by HSR than plane, given where the HSR stations are (Beijing South was much farther from our apartment than BJS, and Changsha’s HSR station is as far out as its airport). But my wife’s hometown is one HSR station south of Changsha (on the BJ to GZ line) and wasn’t served by an airport, so an 8 hour HSR trip made sense. But now that they have an airport, I’m sure I would just prefer to fly.
You're describing tradition air travel. The point is to modernise this, with smaller planes that take off often, closer to you. With little need for check-in etc.
Hard to see use cases except for the wealthy.
There could be multiple pickup and dropoff points distributed throughout the city. Check-in could be streamlined through an app.
It's like helicopters. Cheaper and faster.
We don't know if they will be cheaper. You can go buy a new helicopter today and take delivery within a few months. But none of these eVTOL aircraft are even close to obtaining FAA certification, let alone available for purchase.