The Volocopter displayed in the Piazza San Silvestro in central Rome on Thursday.
Flying cab could be taking travellers from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport within three years.
With streets full of potholes, buses erupting in flames and soul-crushing traffic in the Eternal City, some say the only way is up.
A new electric air taxi could take passengers from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport to the city centre within three years, according to German company Volocopter, Rome’s airport operator ADR and transport infrastructure holding company Atlantia.
The project, called VoloCity – which is also planned for Paris and Singapore – promises to whisk people from the airport to the city in 20 minutes, with no traffic and zero emissions, travelling at a maximum of 110kph.
Initially, the taxi will carry the pilot plus one passenger, “until the aircraft will fly completely autonomously”, when it will be able to take two passengers, the partners said.
The Fiumicino project will require the development of “vertiports” to allow the taxis to take off and land vertically.
In Rome on Thursday, a gleaming white Volocopter flying taxi was parked in a square near the Trevi Fountain, where curious onlookers were allowed to board.
“I would have liked them to have thought more about the railway system before going up into the sky,” said Giuseppe, 32.
But he conceded: “This is a leap into the future. We talk about going to Mars, so this is the least we can do.”
Local news reports put the price of the planned 20-minute ride from Fiumicino to the city centre at €140 ($161), compared to a taxi, which costs €48, or a 32-minute train for €14.
Italy’s ancient capital suffers from a notoriously creaky public transport system, with pothole-laden roads that wreck tyres, ageing buses that occasionally go up in flames and metro stations often closed for months.
The idea of flying taxis, eventually without pilots, has spread worldwide in part of a push to ease congestion on roads and limit pollution.
Various companies, including ride-services giant Uber and car maker General Motors, are working on vertical take-off and landing aircraft, but major challenges remain, including regulatory issues and safety concerns.