The year is 2027. You're running late for your job in Silicon Valley, and, as commuter traffic south out of SF has only increased over the last ten years, you know that the trip is going to take you at least 90 minutes — if you're lucky. What's an employee to do? According to a whitepaper released today by Uber, you hop in a battery-powered flying vehicle and zip right to your office — arriving in 15 minutes with time to spare.
"On-demand aviation has the potential to radically improve urban mobility, giving people back time lost in their daily commutes," the proposal explains. "A network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically (called VTOL aircraft for Vertical Take-off and Landing, and pronounced vee-tol), will enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities."
While these vehicles are not cars in the traditional sense of the word, as Uber sees them they will serve a similar function but without being tied to fixed routes (i.e. roads). And, of course, because it's Uber, the idea is that you'll never need to own one yourself. Rather, simply take the ride and walk away — leaving the ownership, piloting, and maintenance to someone else. What's more, the network, tentatively named "Elevate," would be accessible to all for about the cost of a current UberX ride.
Wired picked up the report, and notes that the idea isn't as crazy as it first sounds. Acknowledging issues such as battery life, vehicle safety, air-traffic control, and craft design, Uber’s product chief Jeff Holden told the publication that all of the challenges will solved sooner than you may think. “We’re just turning the corner now to make that possible,” he said. “Our intent is to help the industry get there faster.”
Just how fast? Uber sees a possible deployment of Elevate in some form or another just ten years from now.
According to experts polled by Wired, Uber's belief that electric vehicles capable of vertical takeoff and landing that can also fly 100 miles at 150 mph on a single charge can be designed and built within five years is actually correct. Uber says that they would not build the vehicles themselves, but hopes to encourage innovation in the flying-car industry they can then monetize.
Whether or not you'd want your typical UberX driver flying you somewhere is a different story altogether. Either way, the self-driving/flying future is coming at you quickly.