Uber to design its flying cars by next decade
【Summary】Uber is detailing plans for Uber Elevate, a new division for offering rides through flying cars, to cure the increasingly heavy traffic congestion in the world, and hopes to have the program functioning within ten years.
After Airbus launched its blueprint for a flying taxi called "Vahana," Uber began looking into the idea of a flying car.
Released in its recent white paper, the company is detailing plans for Uber Elevate, a new division for offering rides through flying cars. This will be done to cure the increasingly heavy traffic congestion in the world. They hope to have the program functioning within ten years.
"Imagine traveling from San Francisco's Marina (district) to work in downtown San Jose — a drive that would normally occupy the better part of two hours — in only 15 minutes…or imagine reducing your 90-plus minute stop-and-go commute from Gurgaon to your office in central New Delhi to a mere six minutes," writes Jeff Holden, Uber's chief product officer, and Nikhil Goel, the company's product manager for Uber Elevate and advanced programs, in the white paper.
They proposed a so-called "On-demand aviation" idea, similar to the Airbus "flying taxi" concept, to radically improve urban mobility and give people back time that they lose in transportation.
"Uber is close to the commute pain that citizens in cities around the world feel. We view helping to solve this problem as core to our mission and our commitment to our rider base. Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground." Uber said in the statement.
How do they plan to be realized? The company said it will resort to Vertical Take-off and Landing aircraft (VTOL) as the main transportation tool. First, they'll be electric multirotors, using multiple small rotors instead of a single larger one like a helicopter. This provides a more stability, ride comfort, and a quieter experience. Second, Uber proposed that the repurposed tops of parking garages, existing helipads, and even unused land surrounding highway interchanges could form the basis of an extensive, distributed network of "vertiports", which means the flying car's landing or taking-off zone.
Unlike Airbus's Vahana that can only sit one passenger, Uber's flying car is designed to fit in two and four persons. It will fly around a 250 feet altitude. In terms of who will be the air-taxi driver, Uber hopes in the long term these machines can be completely autonomous, which a team of pilots controlling remotely at a central office in case of an emergency. But in initial stages, the flying car will be piloted by professionals with commercial pilot's licenses and at least 500 hours of pilot-in-command experience.
Uber hopes that by mass production and advancement of autonomous autopilot technology, they could reduce the price drastically. A 45-mile pool VTOL would replace a 60-mile car ride for as low as $21, and with only 15 minutes spent on the trip.
The company is planning an Elevate Summit for early next year to further develop the program. It plans to have vehicles ready within the next five years, and then begin deploying them over the successive five years.
Claire Peng has over 6 years of professional experience in the media industry, covering TV, newspaper and online media. She was once a reporter and producer for Fairchild Television based in Toronto Canada, and worked as an English news reporter for the Global Times in Beijing. She writes mainly about self-driving, companies investment, and the enterprise lab.
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