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(Video) How does the "Taxibot" work..

IAI developed with Airbus and TLD an innovative new towbarless towing tractor concept – the TaxiBot (Taxiing Robot). TaxiBot is a semi-autonomous vehicle that enables airplane taxiing without engines running, controlled by the pilot and without shortening NLG life time. A proprietary TaxiBot-aircraft NLG interface mechanism provides pilot steering capability, using the airplane's existing controls in the cockpit. Taxiing speed is controlled by the pilot using the A/C brakes. The TaxiBot… ( More...

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Already being developed, and it Will happen, just not in the form shown here.

or google "Wheel Tug" and other competitors
Rod Williams 3
I seem to recall seeing an article that said they were going to put an electric drive into the nose wheels that would achieve the fuel savings without having to clutter the place up with a bunch of driverless tractors.
Joe Daniel 1
here is a youtube video on the Wheel Tug System
This is amazing! Can't wait to see it everywhere and show the world aviation cares about the environment in a more explicit way
marcad 2
Dang! Tremendous savings and less stress on pilots concerned about fuel planning especially in bad weather situations..delays, deicing , etc..
John Touchard 2
Lol. Who's going to foot that bill? Nope
Joe Daniel 1
The Consumer always foots the bill.

I don't think I would invest even 20.00 for a 80% share of the company.............
I don't think I would even risk $20.00 for an 80% ownership in TaxiBot Corp.
Jason Feldman 4
I can't believe the negativity about this system. Especially for wide body aircraft it makes sense. When the price of Jet-A skyrockets this type of system will be very cost effective. I would like to see this vehicle run autonomously so that no safety driver would be required. Low Visibility taxiing especially when unfamiliar to the airport, runway incursion avoidance, fuel savings, flight crew can do other tasks while it drives itself. It drives itself back to the gate or to next aircraft. Seems like a great idea - In fact, I was talking about something similar back in 2007 and everyone seemed to think ti was a great idea.
Ken Lane 1
When visibility is too bad for taxiing, odds are no 121 carriers will be landing; not domestically, anyway and likely not at all. I'd bet most carrier's underwriters forbid landing below 1600 RVR which limits them to Cat I.

Now, for those who do they would be coming in with such separation there would be plenty of time for the Taxibot not interfering with other ground traffic. But normal operations... that's just too much stuff going on in very limited space at so many airports. Denver is about the only place I can think of that's laid out well enough to accommodate all the extra ground traffic.

A driver would always be required as someone has to get them out to the airplane upon arrival and take them back to the terminal upon departure. And, if they're just going from the departure end to the roll out of arrivals, that's still very limited space for the additional ground traffic.

The Wheel Tug stands a better chance for the majority of 121 birds.
Jason Feldman 4
I never said zero vis - I didn't say it was too low for taxiing either - I simply said low vis taxi. There is no need to exaggerate what I said.

Not enough room? nonsense. Prove that it is a huge money-saver for the airlines and you'll see that where there is a will there is a way... or should I say "where there is money there is a way" It wouldn't be very hard at all with it's low profile!

"a driver will always be required" you say - I completely disagree. AI "artificial intelligence" is very real, and if applied correctly could very well be used to replace a driver. If aircraft can be flown without a pilot, and a car can be driven without a driver (with many more obstacles and variables) a tug can be driven without a driver,,, EASILY

There will most likely be ground coordinators to assign duties to the automated tugs, assigning them to specific aircraft and where to bring them. I can see a ground control tower with a touch sensitive HUD system that allows them to touch the tug, then assign it a flight number, where to meet it and how to get there - and the tugs will communicate with each other to avoid other traffic. and maybe even decide a route of taxi on their own too someday.

I definitely see a future for this technology - and I am willing to bet good money that we will be seeing something like this taxibot in the not too distant future.
Ken Lane 2
You'll never find an air carrier without a pilot. Likewise, it would be foolish to send a tug out on the airport without someone to monitor. Yes, there are aircraft with full autoland and rollout. But, to do so without a pilot... no, never.

Have you ever seen the traffic that accumulates at airports like JFK? Look at the airport diagram. They don't have the space. I'm not sure if the 13/31 pair are far enough apart for simultaneous ILS but if not, that throws another wrench into delays. Add more time for separation in low IMC.

There is not enough real estate at that airport and there's no room to expand. That's true of most any urban airport. Atlanta expanded a decade ago. But you should have seen how much they took out to make it happen not to mention the process of just moving fill dirt from ten miles away. Now, there's talk of a sixth runway but the only way it will happen is take out another two thousand or more homes and businesses and reroute even more roadway.

Sorry, the Taxibot won't happen and certainly not without being manned.
Jason Feldman 3

There is a huge difference between flying pax autonomously vs an autonomous tug. There is no reason for you to keep expanding the conversation to more than what this article and in fact what I have written. You've done that when you tried to turn my low vis taxi into a zero visibility taxi, and now again with your comment "without someone to monitor". I never said no one would monitor, in fact, I very clearly stated that I can see a ground tower with a HUD type of overlay for just that purpose.

We pilots can stick our heads in the ground like an ostrich whenever the topic of AI and Unmanned systems comes up, or we can engage the topic fully. Whether we like it or not automation has already cut the flight crew by 1/3 with EFIS systems taking over the FE position. Ground automation is a very real possibility, especially once fuel prices skyrocket again (which they will someday). This type of tug operating autonomously will be especially useful for wide body aircraft which burn a ton of fuel, airports that suffer from frequent long lines for departure and other delays as well as large airports with long taxi times. Heck, there are days in PHL that we had to return to gate to refuel because despite taking a ton of extra fuel and taxiing out on one engine.... those extra long taxi times coupled with returning to gate that sometimes led to a flight cancelation - a system like this would really save a boatload of money!

Not enough real estate - I don't know how many times I have to write this, but where there is a will there is a way. with extra low profiles and some ingenuity anything can be achieved. Especially if the airlines can save money..they will make it happen. Even if it means having a lane in those grass areas, even if it means creating a recess in those areas it can be done, and I really think it will be done.

I don't know why you feel the need to give me a remedial training on separation in IMC, asking me to open up an airport diagram as if I've never been there myself. but I too have been to these airports.. I too have 25 years of experience.. I too have my ATP and thousands of hours of experience.

At the end of the day this is all about opinion. At some point in the future when economically feasible I expect to see these things running all over the place autonomously... if that never happens I will be wrong. If it does happen you will be wrong. Based on my knowledge on the advancement of robotics , Artificial Intelligence, and automation I would be willing to bet you 100 bucks that in 50 years it will happen. I would place the bet if I really thought I would live that long. But I am hoping you do... and I know you'll remember this conversation.

Until then, lets just agree to disagree.
paul trubits 3
There was a posting on FA last year about using battery power(like a hybrid car) to taxi instead of firing up the engines. This seems like a more viable option.
Ken Lane 2
That would be the case with the Wheel Tug described here.
Ken Lane 1
My only response... Keep dreaming.

The only viable option I see here is the Wheel Tug.
Jason Feldman 4
Dreaming? I am not dreaming... I have no vested interest in the company or the technology. Despite calling on you to just agree to disagree and having not put words in your mouth or act superior you still feel the need to be condescending... So this will be my final message to you, and no matter what your response is - I will not answer (so you can have the last word)

Moore's Law - I am sure you heard about it before and after a brief search on Google or Wikipedia it'll start to seem familiar to you. But hardware is not the only advancement, robotics and artificial intelligence is advancing at such a pace that it is absolutely impossible to accurately predict just how far and fast our lives will be impacted by changing technology. Would you really have believed 50 years ago that UAV's would not only be taking over so many recon. missions but would be trusted with live ordinance? No one thought that would be possible. Now google is working hard to get a completely autonomous passenger automobile to market. There are far more variables to deal with driving than flying. Car manufacturers already have autonomous features on existing cars that will apply the brakes for you if it deems necessary. I distinctly remember people though that consumers would NEVER want a computer overriding their decisions and yet those options are selling more than analysts predicted.

This conversation was NEVER about flying autonomously - it was about a tug that I predict will be autonomous down the line. Despite the extremely high price tag of aircraft, the top two costs of an airline are FUEL and WAGES. Now think about that... people may not want to fly in pilotless aircraft but do you think they care about a driverless tug? I'm willing to bet they wouldn't loose sleep over it at all. And the airlines would love the savings in both man hours and fuel. A single ground controller could monitor multiple vehicles especially with a visual based aid like a HUD. As long as the testing was done properly, and insurance underwriters sign off, the savings would be worth it for the airlines. ZERO runway incursions would be appealing to the FAA, Pilots may even learn to like a system like that that enables them time to do other tasks, a better pre-departure brief, and after all- they can override the autonomous system if they see a problem by just tapping the breaks or turning the tiller... the airport would have a more efficient flow of ground traffic taking all sorts of information into account... that in turn allows for more slots to be sold... it's a win win. It just has to be done right.

Us pilots have to be less apprehensive about talking about these things. Change is coming to EVERY facet of our lives including autonomous vehicles. If we decide to stick our heads in the ground like an ostrich and just repeat to ourselves what we want to hear we will be left out of the conversations all together in the same way the regional aircraft were ignored by the unions and as a result the regional airlines ripped into legacy carriers routes. If ALPA and the rest had treated RJ's properly and cared about the pilots getting paid so little they were on food stamps - we may have all benefited in many ways. If all we do is resist whats coming - we won't be at the table when decisions are made. Computers are still in their infancy really. It is completely possible that we will see autonomous aircraft flying passengers someday... maybe it's 50 years away, maybe 1000 years away, but at some point there could be a series of accidents and the people may demand the change. I hope that never happens, but it could.... God help us if the joke about each cockpit only having one pilot and one dog comes true. It's sad,

again - I have no vested interest in this - so it's not my dream at all. but feel free to send me 100 dollars when it happens LOL
Ken Lane 0
I'm well aware of AI. I'm well aware of Google's research. I have about seven pilot customers who are engineers at Google.

We've not reached the point the public will trust a car to drive them with no one in control but a computer. I damn sure won't trust it. I have eyes and common sense while the computer can learn only so much and it cannot gauge interaction with other drivers. Years back when someone learned I was going to be teaching, it was a solid overcast with a cloud base below the fortieth floor we were on. She asked me, "Isn't that dangerous?" My response was I'd rather be in the soup under IFR where I have a lot more control than on an interstate at 70 MPH not having a clue how the person three feet either side of me might react. But at least I can read their actions along the way and have a clue what they might do.

We're a long way from a computer doing that. Neither you nor I will likely be alive when it reaches that point, if it does. I'm not being condescending. I'm being realistic.

As for my airplane moving without my eyes moving like they do now... no. Eyes outside, always. I don't care how smart that computer is.
MultiComm 1
A little off topic with the driver-less cars however ... computer processing of GPS, laser rangeing, and other technologies is very much happening with cars and will be the future.

The problem you see about trusting the car you are in is the wrong problem. The problem is trusting the other driver. With upcoming (and current) technology, a car with this technology can "sense" an approaching obstacle (i.e. car drifting into another lane right beside you) and the car with the technology can react within milliseconds based on the best course of action (i.e. move over, slow down, speed up, etc.) to avoid the drifting vehicle.

As previously mentioned, cars are already equipped with self braking technology and has been proven to stop a semi-truck at interstate speed while on a collision course with a stationary obstacle. Reference Volvo Demo:

The technology is there but the problem is implementing it while other vehicles on the road do not have it which could cause a pile up behind the vehicle that has the technology. It will take many years and possibly an mandate that all vehicles have such technology by xxxx year and then all vehicles that don't have it off the road by xxxx year. Realistically, this would take 30-50 years but it COULD happen and most probably will. I like to driven but I hope I am alive to see it happen.
MultiComm 2
This is great technology. It would save millions of gallons of fuel per year which would easily provide the funding for the project by all the airlines if everyone were to chip in even a portion of the fuel savings.
Colin Seftel 2
Those who think that the TaxiBot is too innovative, take a look at "Ground Power Assisted Takeoff and Landing". ( This is a landing gear system connected to the ground, on which aircraft can take off and land without their aircraft-installed landing gear. The technical feasibility of the ground carriage is being investigated by two research groups. In 2013, IATA included the technology into their "Technology Roadmap". Airbus pursues the concept as part of its "Future by Airbus” strategy.[
Ken Lane 4
Yeah, I can really see that coming into play... at some place like JFK with twenty to thirty planes in a conga line either to depart or arrive and waiting for gates. They would need a whole new road system for the "Taxibots".

It looks good but it ain't gonna happen!
randomguy 3
So... how's the "will make the difference in 2012" doing?
Wait till WHELLTUG hit´s the market !!
this is the one I bet !!!
CAB825 2
Was going to say the same thing....wheeltug has been on the horizon for a few years now....not sure what the delay in its adoption is though. Seems a lot more efficient than an entire tug turned automated.
Ken Lane 2
Heck, it's hard to get airlines to make mandated changes in a timely manner. They won't do any more any faster than necessary. It would probably take environmental mandates on airports and airlines to move forward.
Ken Lane 2
Now, that's one I can some viability in the narrow body/RJ airframes provided it has the durability and can handle the torque load against the drive.

I'd love to see the inner workings on that motor.


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