Uber has revealed their plans regarding the future, and that is of turning the dream of ‘flying cars’ into reality. Confined to sci-fi movies and prototypes, ‘flying cars’ are making their way to the very world we live in. In less than 5 years time, Uber looks to conduct ‘aerial taxi rides’.
Uber has reiterated the desire for innovating ‘flying cars’ by 2023. It is no hidden fact that Uber has been pioneering to put into operation unmanned aircraft that enables passengers to travel from one place to another.
In this regard, Uber hosted its 2nd Annual Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, CA hosted at the Skirball Center. The summit opened to 700+ experts of the aviation industry, government and academia.
Uber Elevate is the name given to the initiative, Uber has undertook in order to launch ‘uberAIR’; the project that includes aerial electric ride service.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was not initially on board with the plan.
“For me the aha moment came when I started understanding that Uber isn’t just about cars,” Khosrowshahi said. “Ultimately, where we want to go is about urban mobility and urban transport, and being a solution for the cities in which we operate.”
However, now she is on board and actively preaching the cause. Mr Dara is convinced that urban transportation problems such as, congestion and pollution can only be solved by taking to the ‘third dimension’ – the aerial route.
The influx of demonstrations and announcements made in the summit was a base to build on, as Uber aggressively plans to begin testing “on-demand’ aviation in just two years.
Uber has put forward a plan for how the ‘air taxi’ should look like. It is named electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles or eVTOL for short.
The model – termed Common Reference Model – is a streamlined, cylindrical all electric 4 seater aircraft.
eVTOL would be piloted by a human initially, but planned to be unmanned later, as the company looks to ease into unmanned flight control after its self-driving car struck a pedestrian resulting in death.
The concept is to reach top speed up to 200 mph and last up to 60 miles on one charge. The eVTOL model replicates the “asset light” approach that was successful with cars.
The interesting part is, like its car ride service, Uber does not want to produce these air-taxis. However, is willing to co-operate with possible manufactures.
The operation goes beyond aircraft and pilots as there are more variables to be considered.
The development of a network of landing and takeoff pads on re-purpose parking-garage tops, existing helipads and land surrounding highway interchanges, is a considerable task that requires not only huge investment but a long list of permissions that need to be accepted.
Moreover, the air routes are an area that need significant addressing. To counter any possible problem in the country’s already crowded air routes, Uber has enacted two agreements with NASA. The second of which deals with air traffic and a solution for it.
“Using data from Uber, NASA will use its research facility at the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) airport to simulate a small passenger carrying aircraft as it flies through DFW airspace during peak scheduled air traffic, and analyze if these operations would trigger traffic collision advisories,” Uber said in a statement.
Uber has stated the first cities to get its air taxis would be Los Angeles and Dallas – with demos expected in 2020 and flights expected to be commercially available by 2023.
As far-off as it may seem, flying cars are on the brink of takeoff. Looking at the advent of new light weight materials and longer lasting batteries that cost less experts say an electric vehicle, that can carry several people around a city is entirely reasonable.
Small capacity aircraft is not an Uber invention. Rivals are already working on their respective prototypes. Airbus is busy testing its Vahana multicopter whereas Workhorse’s SureFly personal electric flying machine just took off for the first time.
The future remain uncertain with regards to law regulations and whether residents are accepting of unmanned air crafts swarming over their rooftops – but there is considerable reason to hope for a future of ‘flying cars’.