Last year, Uber announced it wanted to bring its vision of futuristic flying cars to Los Angeles as early as 2020. The date may now have been pushed back to 2023, but Uber are still deadly serious and have even just unveiled their latest flying taxi prototype during its two-day Elevate conference.
As you can see from the images, the UberAir taxi prototype is more drone-like than pure helicopter and features four stacked rotors and a fifth rotor on its tail for forward propulsion, as the others lift the aircraft from the ground. The aircraft will be electrically powered, and Uber says they’ll fly between 1,000 and 2,000 feet.
Uber are hoping that its flying taxis will not simply be exclusively for the rich and famous, and are suggesting there’ll be thousands in use by 2023. The idea is based on shuttling passengers between rooftop ‘skyports’ and landing sites in cities, each of which will be equipped to handle 200 take-offs and landings every hour. While aircrafts will be piloted manually initially, Uber do plan on making them autonomous.
Cost-wise, UberAir will reportedly not be cheaper on a cost-per-mile basis than car ownership – at least at launch. Car ownership averages a cost of somewhere between 34p and 45p per mile, while UberAir is expected to start around £4.23 per passenger per mile. But Uber does aim to bring that down to 32p to stay competitive.
While it’s still in the concept phase, it does seem like the pieces are falling into place for UberAir. Uber has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA to create a brand-new air traffic control system to manage these low-flying, possibly autonomous aircraft. Watch this space…