Uber is even better known today for its community freight distribution and food delivery services, the development of self-driving cars and related scandals, but the future is imagined in the air. On Tuesday, the company’s Elevate conference explained in a little more detail what that means.
In any case, called an air taxi or a flying car, Uber is trying to break into the urban aviation market with new types of vehicles – the vehicles would be driven primarily by pilots, but the goal is to introduce self-driving air taxis. Vehicles moving vertically on take-off and landing would be given a separate station, the company said, which will be able to provide 200 vehicles per hour for take-off and landing.
According to the prototypes presented, the two wings of the vehicles will be equipped with four rotors each, making them most similar to a giant drone, but the developers say this will make them much safer than single-rotor-powered helicopters, for example. It is promised it will be half as loud as a truck passing in front of a house and will travel 300-600 meters above the ground.
The company has teamed up with NASA to develop a service called UberAIR: Uber will provide flight data to the space agency, which in turn will help organize a system-wide organization of operational urban aviation. “Urban aviation can revolutionize the way people and goods move in our cities and fundamentally change the way we live, just like smartphones have done,” said Jaiwon Shin, an aeronautical researcher at NASA. Aurora, Bell, Karem, Brazilian Embraer and Slovenian Pipistrel are also involved in the development.
Although not a single taxi flew over America, competition has already emerged. A company called Kitty Hawk, which develops self-driving taxis, has teamed up with the New Zealand government to test its Cora vehicle. In addition to Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk, Airbus also works on self-propelled aircraft.
Uber plans to test air taxi service in Dallas and Los Angeles in 2020, and flying vehicles could go into day-to-day traffic in 2023, according to the company’s hopes.