Commuters might be flying to their offices and errands soon with Uber’s Air Taxi.
The ride-hailing company just unveiled new details about its upcoming air taxi services. And this time, Uber came with a prototype where CBS News got to see at the second annual Uber Elevate Summit.
Uber is aiming for 2020 to start running test flights in Dallas or Los Angeles. The company also plans to start commercial service as soon as 2023.
“We think cities are going to go vertical in terms of transportation and we want to make that a reality,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CBS News.
“We want to create the network around those vehicles so that regular people can take these taxis in the air for longer distances when they want to avoid traffic at affordable prices,” Khosrowshahi adds.
Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product officer, says the ride is meant to be community friendly. It will work similar to a helicopter with stacked rotors to create lift. However, it will be running on electricity and will have small propellers making it quieter.
At launch, the Uber Air Taxi will be piloted. Eventually, the company plans to make it autonomous.
Would you be willing to try this mode of transportation? Let us know!
Ever Dreamed of Having a Self-flying Vehicle? Read on:
A self-flying air taxi lifts off in New Zealand. Google founder Larry Page funded a firm which unveiled an electric self-flying taxi. This air taxi can travel up to 180 km/h. It can go up to 100 kilometers on a single charge. It takes off and lands vertically.
Parent company Kitty Hawk said it operates using self-flying software combined with human oversight. According to Kitty Hawk it will soon be available to customers as a service “similar to an airline or rideshare”.
The program was developed in New Zealand because its government welcomed it for its environmental credentials.
Dr. Megan Woods, minister for research, science and innovation, said in the promotional video for the aircraft, that they are aiming for net zero emissions by 2050. And that includes mobility.
The firm said it is now working “constructively” with aviation regulatory authorities but said they cannot put a date on when they might start to work.
This aircraft is known as an eVTOL , which stands for electric Vertical Take Off and Landing. BBC said eVTOL has many varieties in development but CORA, as this particular eVTOL is called, is an interesting model.
“Vertical take-off and then changing to winged flight is quite a feat in engineering”, said Steve Wright, professor in aerospace engineering at the University of West England. According to hi they have been doing it for a long time but it is still very hard. “Doing it with batteries is even more impressive”, he said.
Battery tech though was holding back innovation. “For 150 years now, engineers have been spoiled by hydrocarbons – petrol and oil – because they stuffed a huge amount of energy into a small space”, Prof. Wright said.
Everybody would prefer a battery which could store 10 to 15 times as much charge. Cora has a fairly short range but there will be a market for it in the mega-cities of the future.
However the passenger drone concept has so far proved to be difficult to get off the ground in practice. A test flight by SureFly carrying people was cancelled due to light rain. In Dubai, they initially said that self-flying air taxis would commence in July 2017. But the company behind it, Velocopter, said that they hoped the air taxis would be operational within 5 years.