EHang 198 drone carries not cameras or packages but humans

Drones are all the fad these days, from hulking machines to palm-sized toys. So, too, are self-driving cars, with car maker after car maker, including Google, revealing a piece of autonomous driving technology. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that someone, in this case Chinese drone company EHang, has made something that combines both. Introduing the EHang 198, the world's first AAV, not UAV. That stands for Autonomous Aerial Vehicle, basically a manned Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (oxymoronic, ain't it?) whose purpose is to carry its package from point A to point B. The package, in this case, is a human being.

It is definitely the stuff of science fiction. Imagine stepping into a gigantic drone-shaped vehicle, punching in your destination, and off you go into the skies, with nary a worry about traffic. That, indeed, is the lifetime goal of EHang CEO Huazhi Hu. But unlike other dreamers, he has started to make that dream a reality.

The company, after all, already proved it chops with drones with its Ghost Drone line. But going from small UAV to life-size AAV is a pretty big jump. Hu is nonetheless confident that his company already has everything it needs to make that happen. So confident that it's already showing it off at CES 2016. Well, at least the appearance of the machine, not yet in actual use.

When, and if, it does go into actual use, it will have a bevy of features that any self-driving, or in this case, self-piloting, vehicle would kill to have. Aside from the obvious navigation from pick up to drop off, the EHang 198 will have several redundant Fail-Safe systems to ensure the safety of the passenger or, should it really be necessary, let the passenger stop the travel. Noticeably missing is any mention of the passenger taking over.

That's because, in EHang's vision of the future, those taking the EHang 198 will know as much about piloting a drone as everyday commuters do today. In other words, none. You won't need a pilot's license to ride one of these things. Now if drones and self-driving cars already pose a problem for authorities today, imagine what a headache these AAV's might become. That is, if they do become a thing. And that, for now, is a very big if.