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Uber Announces Partnership with Hyundai Motor Group on Urban Air Mobility

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【Summary】At CES this week in Las Vegas, Uber and Hyundai Motors Group announced a new partnership on a futuristic multi-passenger VTOL aircraft that in the near future may whisk Uber customers in the sky above congested cities, cutting some two hour commutes down to just 15 minutes. Hyundai will produce the VTOL aircraft, while Uber will provide aerial ride-sharing platform for customers to book them.

FutureCar Staff    Jan 09, 2020 3:15 PM PT
Uber Announces Partnership with Hyundai Motor Group on Urban Air Mobility

As California-based ride-hailing company Uber Technologies looks for ways to become a mobility provider rather than just a ride-hailing company, it is looking towards the sky.

At CES this week in Las Vegas, Uber and Hyundai Motors Group announced a new partnership on a futuristic multi-passenger VTOL aircraft that in the near future may whisk Uber customers in the sky above congested cities, cutting some two hour commutes down to just 15 minutes.

Hyundai will produce the VTOL aircraft, while Uber will provide aerial ride-sharing platform for customers to book them.

A full-scale model of Hyundai's VTOL aircraft is on display at CES this week.

"Our vision of Urban Air Mobility will transform the concept of urban transportation," said Jaiwon Shin, Executive Vice President and Head of Hyundai's Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Division. "We expect UAM to vitalize urban communities and provide more quality time to people. We are confident that Uber Elevate is the right partner to make this innovative product readily available to as many customers as possible."

Uber has been exploring air transportation for the past several years. The ride-hailing giant formed a new initiative called Uber Elevate, tasked with exploring ways to incorporate and develop vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft as part of Uber's transportation offerings in crowded urban areas.

Hyundai is Uber's first automotive partner on VTOL aircraft. The automaker also has the manufacturing capabilities to mass produce Uber Air Taxis.

In addition to Hyundai, Uber has already formed partnerships with several highly experienced aircraft manufacturers including Aurora Flight Sciences, which is a subsidiary of Boeing, Bell, Embraer, VTOL startup Joby Aviation and aircraft manufacturer Jaunt Air Mobility. The goal is for the companies to develop Electric Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) that Uber will use for its Uber Air service.

Uber has already defined a set of missions and requirements for the eVTOL aircraft its plans to use with Uber Air, including how much noise they can generate, as well as quantifying vehicle safety and performance.

The requirements include that Uber's VTOL aircraft have space for a pilot and 3 or 4 passenger seats with a max payload weight of at least 980 lb, including luggage. In addition, the vehicle footprint must not exceed 50 feet in its max dimension, including fully extended rotors. Max height should not exceed 20 feet.

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A full-scale model of Hyundai's VTOL aircraft concept is on display this week at CES in Las Vegas.

The South Korean automaker is hoping Urban Air Mobility (UAM) will transform cities by enabling on-demand urban air mobility on Uber's platform.

In addition announcing a partnership with Uber, Hyundai unveiled at CES this week its vision for urban mobility to help vitalize human-centered future cities. The automaker showcased three mobility solutions including Urban Air Mobility (UAM), Purpose Built Vehicle (PBV) and Hub, a place for mobility transfer and community activities. 

"Through the partnership with Uber, we will accelerate efforts to harness Hyundai's businesses and technologies to deliver true freedom of mobility," said Euisun Chung, Executive Vice Chairman of Hyundai Motor Group. "We will innovate tirelessly to redefine the boundaries of mobility and provide quality time to customers." 

Hyundai's longer term goal is to free future cities and people from constraints of time and space instead of wasting hours trying to get around in city traffic.

If Uber wants to get off the ground, so to speak, the company will need a partner such as Hyundai. As a tech company, Uber does not have to ability to build its own aircraft yet. However, by tapping into Hyundai's manufacturing strength, the transportation company could make its plans for urban mobility a reality.

Uber is aiming to offer the first flights in 2023

Uber with help from its Elevate Network partners, hopes to launch fleets of small, electric VTOL aircraft in Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia. Uber is aiming to launch the first flights as early as 2023, which is a fairly aggressive timeline. 

Hyundai's timeline is a bit more conservative. Chung said she expects commercialization of urban air mobility service in 2028, saying it will take additional time for laws and systems to be in place to support their operation.

In cities, people will need a place to get picked up and dropped off so Uber has entered into a real estate partnerships with real estate developer Hillwood Properties to build "skyport" infrastructure for Uber so it can pickup and drop off passengers on city rooftops.

Uber has also signed two Space Act Agreements with NASA one for the development of new unmanned traffic management concepts and unmanned aerial systems for Urban Air Mobility. 

Uber's own analysis projects that an electric vehicle will travel at speeds up to 200mph and that eventually, after several years in a market, an Uber Elevate ride will cost the same as an UberX trip of the same distance on the ground. For that we'll have to wait and see.

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