Uber Expanding Its Flying Taxi Plans
Jeff Holden, head of projects for Uber, has announced that the company intends to add to its growing list of pilot cities for flying taxis. By 2020, the company hopes to launch the service in Dubai, Dallas-Fort Worth, and now Los Angeles. The updated plans were revealed during a speech at the Web Summit, held in Lisbon. Uber originally revealed its plan to take ridesharing to the skies last year.
The flying taxis, also known as VTOL (pronounced vee-tol), are planned to pickup and drop off passengers from the rooftops. A video produced by Uber demonstrates the service from the viewpoint of a working mom trying to get her kids home.
Users of the service would be able to book the flying taxis through the Uber app on their smartphones and meet them at designated skyports. After gaining access to the skyport, the user would be weighed before boarding the aircraft to ensure compliance with any weight capacity limits placed on the sky bound vehicles. The fixed wing plane-helicopter hybrid would arrive at company staffed facilities to pick up scheduled passengers to help them bypass the everyday struggles of being stuck in traffic.
There is still much work for Uber to do in order for their air service to lift off by 2020. Many challenges must be overcome to make Uber’s vision come to fruition. One of the main challenges is that the aircraft have yet to be built. Engineers are currently working to find ways to produce an aircraft that will meet safety and regulation guidelines.
In addition, the project is still missing an infrastructure to support the service. Project Elevate is currently working with NASA as part of the Space Act Agreement to create an air traffic control system designed to manage low flying autonomous aircraft.
In an interview, Holden stated that even without a physical product, the launch of Uber Elevate is much closer than most people might imagine. “There’s been a great deal of progress that’s been hard to see from the outside, because a lot of this is just hard work at the drafting table,” he said. He continued, “It’s been a really interesting process getting our vehicle manufacturing partners aligned on performance specifications, so that they’re building vehicles that align with what we need to make Elevate successful.”
Uber is getting a jump on the market by partnering with aircraft manufacturers, industry regulators, and real estate firms to ensure that they have a comprehensive plan for success. However, Uber is not the only company working on the development flying taxis. Other aviation companies, such as Boeing and Airbus, are also looking to create their own prototypes. Even newer companies like Kitty Hawk, owned by Larry Page of Google, are making plans to tap into the market.