This is Uber’s new project in collaboration with NASA. The two entities have signed a partnership to build electric flying taxis. Explanations.
After investing heavily in autonomous vehicles, Uber is selling a new dream: “Elevate”. On 7 November, at the Lisbon Web Summit, Jeff Holden, its Chief Product Officer, announced he would develop vertical take-off flying taxis with NASA, which is working on low-altitude monitoring software. “Our goal is to make this means of transport more economical than using a private car“, he explains, promising test flights in Los Angeles in 2020.
Half-drone, half-helicopter, flying taxis look set to revolutionise urban transport. The objective: to avoid traffic jams, to reduce normally highly time-consuming dashes to a few minutes. The project is already well advanced, with the first test flights scheduled as early as 2020 in Dubai, Los Angeles and Dallas, and sales starting in 2023. And Uber hopes to be fully operating this service for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028.
Better than a drone
The principle will be the same as for the classic Ubers: the flying machines will be reserved via a mobile application. They will look like aeroplanes with rotor blades, with vertical take-off and landing, like a helicopter. The first machines will be able to take up to four passengers. There will be a pilot, although, eventually, the aim is for them to be fully autonomous.
To build the drones, Uber has entered into partnership with five specialised companies, including Boeing, through its subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences. The company is working on a device called “Aurora eVTOL”. A silent machine at take-off and inaudible in full flight, designed to take passengers over distances of up to 50 kilometres. At the same time, Uber has signed an agreement with Sandstone Properties, one of Los Angeles’ major landowners. The idea is to build about twenty small terminals on rooftops called “skyports” to allow passengers to board and vehicles to recharge. Icarus’ dream is now within reach. Who wouldn’t want to believe it?