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An Austin-based startup is taking flying cars from sci-fi movies to reality.
Over the weekend, LIFT Aviation Company put its all-electric, single-passenger flying vehicle on display at Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport in Springfield, Ohio. The electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle, called HEXA, could change the future of flying transportation and is projected to be publicly available by the end of the year.
HEXA was created by University of Texas alumnus and LIFT CEO Matt Chasen and was funded with a $226,000 grant by JobsOhio's Ohio Site Inventory Program at Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport.
Together with two other aircraft companies, LIFT is also creating a facility designated for flying cars. The facility will include simulation stations for future pilots as well as charging stations to help make Springfield a key spot in a network for future flying vehicles that can travel longer distances.
The vehicle itself is light enough that it is not even designated as aircraft, so it doesn't require a pilot's license to operate. It is also semi-autonomous, with a remote computer taking care of takeoff and landing and maintaining stability throughout the flight. The vehicle was created so that anybody could take a few minutes to master the joystick controls and take a ride of their own right after.
HEXA is stocked up with safety features as well. The vehicle can operate with up to six of its 18 propellers not in use, and is equipped with parachute backup to boot.
There are a few drawbacks to the vehicle, however. Because it's essentially a manned drone, the craft can't be flown over populated areas or fly over a couple hundred feet. The vehicle also has a flight time of only 10 or 15 minutes, so it's unlikely that HEXA will be used to evade highway traffic anytime soon.
Since its unveiling at SXSW in Austin in 2019, HEXA has been looked at by the Air Force secretary and chief of staff as a possible soldier transportation vehicle. At $495,000, it's also marketed for thrill-seekers with a bit of change in their pocket. For commercial rides, the drone is looking at a price of $250 per ride, and LIFT is hoping to make the vehicle accessible as a touristy ride as well as used for future transportation research.
While LIFT isn't quite making "Back to the Future" a reality, it is making the future happen with a real-life flying car available for all.
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."