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Get your Korben-Dallas-Multipass ready: Uber promises flying taxis by 2020

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Get your Korben-Dallas-Multipass ready: Ride-sharing giant Uber is now promising flying taxis by the year 2020. According to our calendar, that’s fewer than three years away, and even at this early stage we suspect that the the flying taxis probably won’t look like the ‘60s American cars previewed in the Luc Besson classic “The Fifth Element.” But let’s face it: Land-based self-driving cars are soo last season.

Uber has partnered with aviation giants Bell, Embraer, Pipistrel, Aurora and Mooney to develop small multi-prop VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) craft that will be piloted by the company’s own professional employees (for once), rather than independent contractors working in the fun new gig economy. The Uber Elevate vehicles will be able to carry a small number of passengers between relatively short preset routes. The first point-to-point routes will be in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and around Dubai. Uber has announced a partnership with a real estate firm to create the “vertipads” for its small VTOL craft.

Uber envisions that “vertipads” can be built on top of existing parking garages for ease of access. Photo by Uber

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The craft will be electric; Uber is also launching a partnership with EV infrastructure manufacturer ChargePoint to create the charging stations for these flying machines. The vertipads themselves can be built on converted tops of urban parking garages, allowing passengers to drive up to the top of the parking garage and switch into a VTOL UberAir taxi.

Uber’s partnership with Aurora, in particular, suggests the ride-hailing service may rely on a production version of Aurora’s small two-passenger eVTOL craft — essentially a scaled-up drone — which is currently undergoing testing.

Certainly, there are advantages to electric helicopters and VTOL craft — less noise, no expensive aviation fuel — but at the current stage there appear to be just as many challenges to be solved.
 

Uber flying taxis

Uber envisions flying taxis operating within dystopian megapolises of the future, or present-day Los Angeles. The program will actually roll out in Dubai and Dallas in 2020. Photo by Uber

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Uber isn’t promising curbside pickup for passengers — at least not yet — but the prospect of skipping Atlanta or LA traffic for the price of an Uber ride does sound like something for which even passengers afraid of heights will shell out money.

Bottom line: We’d like to see working prototypes before we get a Multipass from Penn Station to the Hamptons.

Your move, Lyft.
 


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