SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between the San Antonio Business Journal and KSAT.
Southwest Research Institute received a four-year, $7.2 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to test air taxi designs created by artificial intelligence systems, according to a Tuesday news release.
Austin Whittington, a senior computer scientist at San Antonio-based SwRI and the project’s principal investigator, will lead a team that will analyze the AI’s designs and evaluate its capabilities for air taxis — electric flying vehicles that carry a few passengers short distances.
Whittington’s team will test the designs and develop specific criteria, such as being no larger than two cars parked beside each other, having a useful range of at least 20 to 30 miles, and being able to carry at least two people. The specific requirements will be developed as part the program.
The project is part of DARPA’s Symbiotic Design for Cyber Physical Systems program, created in August 2019 to streamline design though AI-enabled tools.
“Air taxis are a very exciting idea that also presents a very challenging engineering problem. In many ways, it’s the perfect concept to test an AI’s design capabilities,” Whittington said in the release, adding that there is less room for human error through such designs.