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Hyundai S-A1 Flying Taxi Could Help Uber Go Airborne by 2023

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【Summary】Unveiled at this year’s CES show in Las Vegas, the Hyundai S-A1 flying taxi has been jointly developed by Uber and Hyundai and could ferry up to four passengers at altitudes of up to 2,000 feet.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jan 12, 2020 6:00 AM PT
Hyundai S-A1 Flying Taxi Could Help Uber Go Airborne by 2023

Roads are packed more than ever and some companies have decided to look up, quite literally, to the sky. Traditional automakers, ride-sharing companies, and even airplane companies have looked at ways to bring flying taxis to the market. The sky is the new frontier for taxis, it's a market no one else has explored yet, so there's still plenty of available space and room for growth. To that end, Uber and Hyundai have partnered to come out with an electric air taxi that could be flying as soon as 2023.

Flying Taxi Could Be Available By 2023

The electric flying taxi is called the S-A1 and has seating for five (including one pilot). The electric machine has an interesting design with four electric props, looking similarly to an oversized quadcopter drone. The company claims that cruising altitude is between 1,000 and 2,000 feet. When the machine gets that high above the ground, the electric props tilt to face forward, similar to an airplane for improved efficiency. With the props in this orientation, the S-A1 has a cruising speed of 200 mph and a range of roughly 60 miles, which is probably quicker and longer than your average Uber journey.

Once the S-A1 reaches its destination, the vehicle switches back to its VTOL mode to land. That's important, as urban areas usually don't have runway strips, but buildings to land on top of. It's also important for charging, as Hyundai claims the machine only needs five to seven minutes between trips for a full recharge.

The whole thing with the S-A1 is all about reducing the amount of time people travel. "We're looking at the dawn of a completely new era that opens the skies of our cities," Jaiwon Shin, head of Urban Air Mobility at Hyundai, said at CES. "With point-to-point air travel, we can reduce travel time drastically."

Safety is a big concern for air travel, especially in dense urban locations. To ensure that passengers are safe at all times, the S-A1 will have redundant rotors to make sure that if an engine were to go out, it wouldn't cause the machine to crash. If there's an emergency, the machine has a parachute that will deploy.

Hyundai Looking Past Cars

With Hyundai providing the aircraft, Uber is left to introduce a flying taxi service. "We're not an aircraft manufacturing company, and we have no intention of becoming one," stated Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate. "Our platform is becoming the operating system of cities around the world."

As many other automakers, Hyundai is looking to progress beyond just being an automaker. Instead, the brand, and many others, are looking to be mobility companies with all sorts of services and vehicles in the future. The other machines that Hyundai wants to have include pod cars, Purpose Built Vehicles (PBVs) that could be modular, autonomous, and electric, as well as "S-Hubs" that are for riders going between shuttles or landing pads for the S-A1 flying taxi.

If Uber and Hyundai have their timelines correct, the vehicle could be flying in a city near you as soon as 2023. Though Euisun Chung, Executive Vice Chairman of Hyundai, told Reuters that commercialization of urban air mobility service should take place in 2028, accounting for the time it takes for lays to be put into place.

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