Chief product officer Jeff Holden has announced at the Uber Elevate Summit that they will be releasing flying taxis in Texas and Dubai by the year 2020.
At the price of $1.32 a mile, you will be able to summon a VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft to deliver you between suburbs and cities. This price is just slightly more expensive than an UberX cab, but Uber says the price will drop eventually with it ultimately becoming cheaper to fly using this service than run a car due to high volume production of the aircrafts.
Uber say their plans will enable:
“rapid reliable transport between suburbs and cities, and ultimately, within cities”.
Infrastructure will come to areas with high amounts of daily commute traffic, and where infrastructure does not exist already. This means commute times for those who can afford it will be a fraction of what it would be using a car.
Uber also states that their aircrafts will be safer, quieter, and less polluting than using a helicopter, and would be autonomous which would “significantly reducing operator error”. These VTOLs will apparently also be safer than cars due to the autonomy and the distributed electric propulsion (DEP) they use. However, Uber has said:
“No vehicle manufacturer to date has yet demonstrated a commercially viable aircraft featuring DEP, so there is real risk here.”
Initial services will be cheapened via the use of ridesharing. Uber says on the subject:
“Once the ridesharing service commences, a positive feedback loop should ensure that it ultimately reduces costs and thus prices for all users, i.e. as the total number of users increases, the utilisation of the aircraft increases”.
There are a number of challenges Uber will face before they can get this project off the ground (excuse the pun). There will have to be a certification process for new aircraft concepts, battery technology for electric transport, issues wit air traffic control, and most importantly, locations to land a fleet of taxis.
Uber understands that this will be a difficult and ambitious project. They say however:
“it is achievable in the coming decade if all the key actors in the VTOL ecosystem — regulators, vehicle designers, communities, cities, and network operators — collaborate effectively”.
It’s strange to think that flying taxis are becoming a reality, but I’m just looking forward to the hoverboard. Get on it Uber!