The Potential Societal Barriers of Urban Air Mobility (UAM)


Authors: Susan Shaheen, PhD, Adam Cohen, and Emily Farrar

Date: November 2018


Urban Air Mobility (UAM) is an emerging concept ofair transportation where small package delivery drones to passenger-carrying air taxis operate over populated areas, from small towns to the largest cities are being considered. This could revolutionize the way people move within and around cities by shortening commute times, bypassing ground congestion, and enabling point-to-point flights across cities. In recent years, several companies have designed and tested enabling elements of this concept, including; prototypes of Vertical Take-Off Landing (VTOL) capable vehicles, operational concepts,and potential business models. While UAM may be enabled by the convergence of several factors, several challenges could prevent its mainstreaming, such as societal acceptance.

For this study, the researchers conducted three key steps to study the potential societal adoption of UAM. First, we conducted a literature review on existing studies that examine trust in automation, perceptions of UAM and other related technologies, and feelings toward the composition and characteristics of flight crews (e.g., gender perceptions, etc.). We then conducted two focus groups to collect qualitative responses and help inform the development of a general population survey regarding UAM across five U.S. cities. Two focus groups were completed in June 2018 in Washington,D.C. and Los Angeles. The participants of the focus groups were engaged on topics such as: familiarity with UAM; their thoughts and impressions of UAM; and views regarding ownership, automation, and safety. In August 2018, we completed an exploratory general population survey consisting of approximately 1,700 respondents in Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. (approximately 350 respondents per city). The survey expanded on the topics covered in the focus groups and included additional questions about willingness-to-fly, weather, and noise concerns. This report summarizes the literature review, focus group, and survey findings.

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March 9, 2020