Uber says its fleet of flying taxis is just around the corner
- Author: Joe Gonzales May 09, 2018,
May 09, 2018, 5:17
Uber is releasing new information about Uber Air, an ambitious plan to launch a fleet of autonomous flying taxis in two years. The video depicts a woman booking an UberAir through the app, heading up to an Uber "skyport" at the top of a building, and then sharing her ride with three other passengers while gazing down at the bumper-to-bumper freeway below.
At this year's summit, Uber unveiled yet another flying vehicle concept, this one being a four-passenger vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) fixed-wing aircraft, with vertical rotors fixed to those wings, giving an overall design that's not dissimilar to the quadcopters that have become popular in recent years.
Ultimately, Uber wants to make its service, to be known as Uber Air, a drone-based system that won't require pilots. "Alphabet CEO Larry Page has made significant investments in companies working on flying cars, such as startups Kitty Hawk" Kitty Hawk and Zee Aero.
Uber is still dealing with the fallout from a deadly accident involving one of its autonomous cars, but that's not stopping the company from moving on to the next transportation innovation.
Eric Allison, the company's head of aviation program, showed a chart indicating that UberAir could conceivably charge $90 for a 29-minute ride between locations that would cost $60 and take 69 minutes using the UberX vehicle service instead. When Uber hired Mark Moore, a former NASA advanced aviation engineer to lead Uber Elevate engineering in early 2017, the flying taxi service crossed the line from speculation for its own sake to a still-undefined but possible future project.
Jeff Holden, Uber's chief product officer, kicked off the second annual summit Tuesday morning.
The electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle prototype unveiled on Tuesday resembles a helicopter with five propellers distributed around the aircraft.
Uber has set a goal of testing these electric flying vehicles by 2020 and a commercial launch in 2023. Batteries with sufficient energy density to work don't exist yet, and Uber asking for them to exist won't help.
"I will tell you that the company took it upon itself to change", Khosrowshahi said. Its autonomous auto program has stalled, following a fatal collision with a pedestrian in March.
He said it's "game over" if the company can't provide a workplace where female employees feel safe.