Arts & Entertainment

THE NAKED CITY: The ‘Jetsons’ Syndrome

The Jetsons began as an animated sitcom back in the early 60s – a kind of futuristic counterpart to The Flintstones presenting a fantastic world in which technology enriched almost every aspect of the daily experience. Robots, holograms, gadgetry galore and flying cars made life an absolute joy. Whilst there were minor inconveniences and some often awkward decisions made by the patriarch George Jetson, there was never any real drama and it was as close to a utopia as you could get.

We have yet to see anything like the techno-utopian dream of the Jetsons but there are many who believe at least some aspects of it are just around the corner. Take flying cars for example. It’s well disclosed that the global behemoth Uber, despite being four billion dollars in debt and never having turned a cent of profit, is heavily invested in developing autonomous flying vehicles – the aerial taxis of tomorrow.

Travelling from the city to the airport and you take an elevator to the nearest rooftop sky port, where courtesy of your Uber app, your autonomous air taxi is waiting. Flying at an altitude between 1000 and 2000 feet, hopefully well above the thousands of other drones delivering pizzas and Amazon packages, you’ll be at the airport in around 12 minutes at a cost which Uber currently predicts at about $5 a mile.

Wow, sure beats sitting in a self-driving car on Southern Cross Drive, reduced to a crawl in peak hour traffic. Funny though – it has been tried before and back in the 1970s a helipad operated from Darling Harbour, whisking cashed up commuters off to the airport and vice versa. Come the 80s and the venture had folded, largely due to lack of patronage.

Uber, of course, envisage an economy of scale with hundreds of their drone-like taxis buzzing through the skies of Sydney, one of their chosen international cities for the project, as early as a few years from now. The sceptical like myself are definitely not holding their breath, but just a few questions I would like to put to the Uber techs in case their dreams do actually materialise?

  1. Do these autonomous flying vehicles come with a parachute in case something goes radically wrong and they decide to drop out of the air?
  2. I always enjoy having a chat with the driver – will there be a robotic voice to exchange pleasantries with (like Hal in 2001) or complain about the weather?
  3. Is there a boot to accommodate two large suitcases?
  4. What happens if some lunatic takes a pot shot from the ground – will we have access to weapons of defence?
  5. Can we drop into a suburban backyard to pick up a friend on the way.
  6. If one of these drones does come crashing down and I am badly incapacitated for months at home will I be compensated with free Uber Eats for a month

To be honest I don’t really care because chances are I will have been transported by an Uber hearse to an Uber/Airbnb graveyard and buried in a cardboard coffin from, well before the first autonomous flying hack brings down its initial electronic flag fall.

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