Uber plans 2020 takeoff for fleet of flying cars
Global taxi company Uber are set to hold key talks with American transport and safety authorities as they finalise plans for their flying taxis to take to the skies in just two years’ time.
Uber’s proposed vehicles combine many of the most cutting edge elements in tech today. The vehicles will fly at 200mph and combine technology from helicopters and planes: rotors will let them take off and land vertically, which will be crucial in busy areas, whilst wings will allow the vehicles to quickly cover longer distances. Initially, the vehicles will be manned by pilots, but Uber’s goal is for the vehicles to be driven autonomously – following recent (and controversial) autonomous driving tests within their car fleet – and powered by batteries rather than fuel.
The benefits these vehicles will offer commuters will be numerous, Uber says. Journeys will be cheaper and faster journeys than those offered currently, as Uber projects customer journeys will eventually clock in at around 35p a mile, though this figure will likely be higher whilst the vehicles remain piloted, and a journey that would take an hour and a half today may take less than fifteen minutes to complete.
A key component of their effort to win over US government support has been their Los Angeles summit ‘Elevate’, which began on Monday and finishes today. The event has featured speeches from over 700 influential figures from a wide range of backgrounds, from Elaine Chao, the US Secretary for Transportation, to NASA's Jaiwon Shin and the Mayor of Los Angeles.
The major obstacle that Uber will need to overcome is US airspace legislation, which prohibits traffic from flying in close proximity to buildings. This has obvious implications for flying cars, which will need to navigate clustered urban areas. Nevertheless, the White House has recently relaxed laws surrounding drone flights in US cities and, in light of the attendance of various NASA and US government figures at the Uber event, it wouldn’t be beyond imagination for US laws to swiftly accommodate flying commuter vehicles too.
Flying cabs have attracted interest from many of the greatest minds in tech – including Google, who unveiled their own flying car project, Cora, in March – and we’re keen to see how the story evolves.