Last Updated: | Author: Kathy Fettke | Topic: [REN #761] Uber to Launch Flying Taxis in 2023
Date: July 8, 2019
Flying taxis are about to make their debut and reinvent our concept of urban transport. Uber says it plans to launch its Uber Air service three years from now, in 2023. Uber says it will begin the roll-out in two U.S. cities, and a third international location.
The San Francisco-based Uber announced at the Uber Elevate Summit in Washington, D.C. that it will begin air taxi service in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Melbourne, Australia. It says demonstration flights in those cities could begin as early as next year. (1)
It is also working on the creation of a global network of landing pads called Skyports where air taxis can pick up and drop off passengers. Uber is partnering with real estate and lifestyle firm Related to build the first Skyport in Santa Clara, California, at a 240-acre community now under development.
Vehicle prototypes look like small planes with propellers that allow them to take off and land vertically. A prototype at the Summit displayed a cabin about the size of a large SUV that can seat four passengers, a pilot and another crew member, along with passenger luggage.
The umbrella term for these vehicles is VTOL which stands for vertical take-off and landing. They are also environmentally-friendly electric-powered vehicles.
Future of Transportation
Uber says that aerial ridesharing is the future of transportation. The company says that air taxis in urban areas will help commuters avoid traffic gridlock. It will also make it possible for people to live and work in places where car commutes would be painful.
Uber explains in its whitepaper, “On-demand aviation has the potential to radically improve urban mobility, giving people back time lost in their daily commutes.” It says, “VTOLs do not need to follow fixed routes. Trains, buses, and cars all funnel people from A to B along a limited number of dedicated routes, exposing travelers to serious delays in the event of a single interrupt. VTOLs, by contrast, can travel toward their destination independently of any specific path, making route-based congestion less prevalent.” (2)
It also believes that, eventually, small air transport vehicles like these will be more affordable than owning and commuting by car. It says VTOLs will be more expensive at first, but not prohibitively expensive because the ride-sharing paid trips will amortize the costs more quickly. By the time VTOLs are being used extensively, Uber says the cost will be dramatically lower.
Worldwide Network of Landing Pads
Uber is envisioning a robust worldwide network of landing pads that could provide new income opportunities for property owners. It says that Skyports can be built on their own or installed at airports, or added to rooftops of existing structures. Uber is already planning for the construction of larger flying taxi stations in busier, urban areas that can accommodate thousands of takeoffs and landings per hour. Uber unveiled several design concepts by various companies at the Elevate Summit. Global architectural firm Gensler was one of them.
Gensler designed two versions of its CitySpace idea. (3) One is a ground-up install, while the other can be added to an existing building. But it isn’t just a high-volume landing pad. Gensler says it will be a public gathering place with stores, restaurants, and other amenities. It will also be a hub for several kinds of transportation, including air taxis. A website description says, “The passenger can arrive on e-bikes, e-scooters, public transit, traditional ride-sharing vehicles or autonomous vehicles, then dock or charge their electrical mode, and explore the Concessions Village at the station level.”
According to Mashable, Uber says that short flights will cost about $5 a mile. (4) That would add up to $100 for a 20-mile trip. Uber also expects the price to go down as the system matures. A graph in the Mashable article shows that over the long-term, Uber Air would cost about half what it might in the beginning, and drop to the level of the Uber X, at some point.
Design chief for Uber Elevate, John Badalamenti, said in a statement, “With the first launch of Uber Air just a few short years away, this collection of Skyport Mobility Hub concepts establish a practical, sustainable vision for the infrastructure needed in the communities we plan to serve.” He says, “These designs represent a synergy of purpose, orchestrating a seamless transition between ground transit like Uber Pool and eVTOL aircraft on the roof tarmac – all while contributing to the surrounding neighborhood.” (5)
The advent of sky taxis is an exciting development for the future of our cities.
(1) Uber Website
(3) Gensler Article
(4) Mashable Article
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