Flying cars have been a science fiction staple for decades, but Uber wants to bring them a step closer to reality.
The ridesharing company wants to deploy flying taxis in Dallas, Texas and Dubai by 2020, chief product officer Jeff Holden said at the Uber Elevate Summit in Dallas Tuesday, according to Reuters. The flying taxis would be electric, would have vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) capability, and would be quiet enough to operate in urban areas, according to the presentation.
As with longer-distance flights, the advantage of flying taxis would be low travel times. They could cut the travel time between San Francisco’s downtown Marina and San Jose down to 15 minutes from the two hours it takes to make the same trip by road, according to Uber.
Costs should be reasonable as well, the company claims. In early, small-scale operations, the company believes it can achieve costs of $1.32 per passenger miles, slightly higher than taking UberX over the same distance, Uber’s Holden said. But over time, Uber believes the cost of flying-taxi service will fall below that of cars.
Uber is working with Hillwood Properties to develop four “vertiports” to handle the flying taxis in Dallas, starting next year, Holden said. It’s also working with Dubai’s government to get flying taxis in the air in time for World Expo 2020, which will be held in the city. Uber is partnering with multiple companies, including Bell Helicopter, Pipistrel, Mooney, and Embraer, to develop the taxis. ChargePoint, which manufactures and operates charging stations for electric cars, will make charging equipment for the vehicles.
Flying taxis are an ambitious move for Uber, which is currently being rocked by scandals over everything from allegations of sexual harassment to claims that it used secret software to track drivers from rival Lyft. The company’s other futuristic tech initiative, a self-driving car program, has experienced multiple setbacks, most notably a lawsuit from Waymo claiming Uber benefited from stolen information.
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