The car sharing firm says that an airborne taxi service will eventually be cheaper and safer than running a standard car

Uber will launch flying taxis in Texas and Dubai by 2020, the company's chief product officer Jeff Holden has announced at the Uber Elevate Summit.

Using small electric VTOL (Vertical Take-off and Landing) aircraft, Uber will charge passengers $1.32 per mile (about £1.03 at current rates).

This price is slightly higher than the cost of booking an UberX cab. The firm says that the cost will reduce over time so much so that'll it'll one day be cheaper to use Uber's flying taxi service than to run a car.

Uber described its plans as enabling “rapid reliable transport between suburbs and cities, and ultimately, within cities”. Daily long-distance commutes in heavily congested urban areas not served by existing infrastructure would likely to be the first to use the aircraft.

More than a dozen companies are working on the project, including vehicle charging station maker Chargepoint, which will develop an exclusive charger for the network of Uber aircraft.

Twice as safe as a car

Uber's electric aircraft, which would be quieter, cheaper and less polluting than its nearest equivalent, the helicopter, would ultimately use autonomous technology, the company says, making it much safer by “significantly reducing operator error”.

Uber envisages VTOL aircraft can be twice as safe as driving a car due to autonomy and distributed electric propulsion (DEP). The use of DEP allows for fixed-wing VTOLs, which wouldn't need large helicopter rotors and generate lift with greater efficiency than rotors.

However, Uber has said: “No vehicle manufacturer to date has yet demonstrated a commercially viable aircraft featuring DEP, so there is real risk here.”

Cheaper than running a car

Uber believes that in the long term, using VTOL aircraft taxis be more affordable than running a car. Acknowledging that today’s aircraft and helicopters cost about 20 times more than a car, due to low-volume manufacturing, it said: “If VTOLs can serve the on-demand urban transit case well — quiet, fast, clean, efficient, and safe — there is a path to high production volume manufacturing (at least thousands of a specific model type built per year) which will enable VTOLs to achieve a dramatically lower per-vehicle cost. The economics of manufacturing VTOLs will become more akin to automobiles than aircraft.”

It added that early VTOL vehicles are likely to be very expensive, but because the ridesharing model quickly reduces vehicle cost, “the high cost should not end up being prohibitive to getting started”.

“Once the ridesharing service commences, a positive feedback loop should ensure that ultimately reduces costs and thus prices for all users, i.e. as the total number of users increases, the utilisation of the aircraft increases,” the company said.

Uber also identified a number of challenges which must be addressed to make the aircraft viable. These include the certification process for new aircraft concepts, battery technology for electric transport and issues with air traffic control.

The greatest operational barrier for deploying a fleet of flying taxis is a lack of sufficient locations for landing pads, Uber says.

The firm describes the vision as “ambitious” but believes “it is achievable in the coming decade if all the key actors in the VTOL ecosystem — regulators, vehicle designers, communities, cities, and network operators — collaborate effectively".

Read more: Volvo and Uber partner to develop autonomous technology

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Comments
25

jer

31 October 2016
Wonder what contracts the pilots will work to...

31 October 2016
jer wrote:

Wonder what contracts the pilots will work to...

Good point jer, their mini cab business model has been grounded by a UK court.
I thought ALL existing mini cab firms used self employment though.

1 November 2016
Drivers will eventually be replaced by autonomous cars, And these will essentially be autonomous drones. The technology to make this concept work is nearly there too.

26 April 2017
That's a no!

Drones flown by robots available at anytime of day.

Cheap as chips and boring as hell.

What a world to look forward.

What will we do with those human with no jobs and no revenue stream for HMRC,as all these companies will have offshore accounts.
10 % with all the wealth and 99% they couldn't give a toss about.
Vote Tory you know it makes sense.

26 April 2017
Be nice if we could keep politics out of this forum. It's about cars not your individual prejudices.

26 April 2017
Sorry are you taking the piss? A world where everybody can achieve something that men have dreamed of for millennium. Flight, when you want to where you want, whenever you want, with a good view as a by product!

Even assuming that robots take a great deal of the jobs, there will always be jobs where the primary value of the job is that it is done by a person, who wants a massage, a hair cut, virtually any "performance" to be done by a robot?

31 October 2016
April fools daay!!

1 November 2016
devil's advocate wrote:

April fools daay!!

Exactly, just checked the date, wrong 1st....

Must be to try to offset the bad publicity around the court case.

It won't be safer, or cheaper, the whole idea is rubbish

31 October 2016
In ten years. Really?
This just has to be the PR equivalent of trolling.
The technology doesn't exist, and just imagine the CAA reaction.
Look up the regs for flying over London.

1 November 2016
Drawmer wrote:

In ten years. Really?
This just has to be the PR equivalent of trolling.
The technology doesn't exist, and just imagine the CAA reaction.
Look up the regs for flying over London.

There is a herd of Staffordshire Porkers hovering over the Autocar Office

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