The sky taxis with no pilots 無人駕駛的空中計程車

The future of urban travel?

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你有足夠的勇氣踏上 “空中計程車”嗎?那麼,如果這輛飛車連駕駛員都沒有呢?事實上,建造出世界首輛無人駕駛的空中計程車正是一些公司期望達成的目標。跟隨本集《隨身英語》“衝上雲霄”,一同展望城市交通的未來吧。

課文內容

Vocabulary: Transport 詞匯: 交通工具

You know the feeling. You’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It’s going to be hours before you get home. As we know all too well, congestion is one of the downsides of modern city living. Don’t you wish you could just take to the skies and soar above it all in a helicopter? 

Well, wish no more. Right now, the race is on to release the first commercially viable sky taxi. No longer will personal air travel be the preserve of the super wealthy, say optimistic tech entrepreneurs. There’s just one catch: how do you feel about having no pilot? 

For brave passengers, the city of Dubai plans to roll out rides on their pilotless drone taxi project by the end of this year. You can buckle up and share the ride with one other passenger in their 18-rotor craft, developed by German start-up Volocopter, with a top speed of 100km/h and a flight time of around 30 minutes. 

If you have more friends, French aviation company Airbus are working on a drone which can carry four to six customers. Or if you prefer your own company, Chinese firm Ehang are pioneering a single-seater drone, which stays airborne for 23 minutes. 

Ride-hailing company Uber also want a piece of the action. They say drones like this are the “future of on-demand urban air transportation”. They recently poached NASA chief technologist Mark Moore to help them develop a drone taxi. And he claims it won’t cost the earth. Moore told the BBC that with three or four passengers sharing, it would be “very similar to what an UberX [car] costs today”.

So far so good. But naturally, a number of questions remain. On the technical side, there’s the problem of batteries. A 23-minute flight could get you across town, but how and where does the battery recharge?

And regulations are a challenge too. US authorities require aircraft to carry at least 20 minutes of spare fuel. If you only have 23 or even 30 in total, that leaves very little leeway. Control of access to flight paths will also need to be worked out.

Even if these issues are tackled successfully, there’s still the biggie: safety. Will passengers really be willing to put their lives in the hands of a flying robot? Winning the trust of the regulators and the public may take time. But when they do, well, the sky’s the limit.

詞匯表

bumper-to-bumper (交通)非常擁堵的
congestion 堵車,交通堵塞
to take to the skies 衝上雲霄
the race is on 競爭已經開始
viable 可行的,有望成功的
preserve (某類人群的)專利
catch 暗藏的問題
drone 無人駕駛的飛機
to buckle up 系好安全帶
craft 飛行器
aviation 航空
airborne 在空中的
ride-hailing (提供)叫車(服務)的
a piece of the action (口語)分一杯羹
on-demand 按需的
to cost the earth (英式口語)漫天要價
leeway 富余的時間
flight path 飛行的路線,航線
biggie (口語)重要的事情
the sky’s the limit “天空是極限”,沒有做不到的事情

測驗與練習

1. 閱讀課文並回答問題。 

1. Why are batteries an issue? 

2. What does the author believe is the most significant challenge for drone taxis to be successful?    

3. Which word means ‘disadvantages’?   

4.Which word means ‘a new business designed to solve a specific problem’?    

5. True or false: Uber believe single drone passengers will pay the same as single car passengers. 

2.
請你在不參考課文的情況下完成下列練習。選擇一個意思合適的單詞填入句子的空格處

1. Buying a smartphone doesn’t have to ______. Just get an older model.

be a piece of the action       cost the earth        limit the sky       break the earth

2. When it comes to how much you can spend on a wedding, ______. 

it’s a piece of the action       take to the skies        the race is on       the sky’s the limit

3. Our new helicopter can stay ______ for 10 hours before needing to refuel.

airborne       aviation       aboard       to the skies

4. Lots of people rented their apartments to visitors when the Olympics came to London. They all wanted ______.

to take to the skies       to cost the earth       to buckle up       a piece of the action

5. Your plan is interesting, but there’s not much ______ for failure.

headroom       leeway       congestion       viability

答案
 

1. 閱讀課文並回答問題。 

1. Why are batteries an issue? 
Batteries only last a short time before needing to be recharged. US regulators also demand aircraft carry at least 20 minutes of spare fuel, which limits the flight time even further.

2. What does the author believe is the most significant challenge for drone taxis to be successful?
The author believes that the biggest problem is convincing the public and regulators that drone taxis are safe.    

3. Which word means ‘disadvantages’?
Downsides.

4.Which word means ‘a new business designed to solve a specific problem’?
Start-up.

5. True or false: Uber believe single drone passengers will pay the same as single car passengers.
False. Uber’s Mark Moore believes that three or four people sharing a drone taxi will pay the same per person as hiring a whole Uber car costs.

2.
請你在不參考課文的情況下完成下列練習。選擇一個意思合適的單詞填入句子的空格處

1. Buying a smartphone doesn’t have to cost the earth. Just get an older model.

2. When it comes to how much you can spend on a wedding, the sky’s the limit.

3. Our new helicopter can stay airborne for 10 hours before needing to refuel.

4. Lots of people rented their apartments to visitors when the Olympics came to London. They all wanted a piece of the action.

5. Your plan is interesting, but there’s not much leeway for failure.

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