Following on but unrelated to its more luxury-focused Uber Copter, which launches in New York City in July, Uber this week announced Uber Air, an all-electric flying taxi service that it hopes to begin testing in Australia next year.
The big unveiling came during the Uber Elevate Summit, the company's conference happening this week in Washington DC that's all about the flying taxi service. As TechCrunch reports, Uber's head of Elevate, Eric Allison, gave a presentation Tuesday about how the company expects the economics of electric helicopter services should make it cheaper than owning a car, and just as cheap as ordering an Uber X within a few years.
"Our vision is that on a daily basis it’ll be more economically rational for you to fly than for you to drive," Allison said.
This calculus has something to do with "autonomous scale manufacturing" of the helicopters, and increased use of them for heli-pooling.
The company showed off some photos of a model helicopter and how comfortable it will be inside, which you can see below. Per TechCrunch, "The cabin, built in partnership with aircraft interior designer Safran Cabin, is designed to seat four people at a time."
The first test city, originally planned to be Dubai, will now be Melbourne, Australia, as the company announced today.
"Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology,” says Uber Australia Regional GM Susan Anderson in a statement. "This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the perfect third launch city for Uber Air."
Testing is set to begin in 2020, with further testing allegedly happening in Dallas and Los Angeles in 2023. This of course will depend on some approvals by the Federal Aviation Administration and the cities where it wants to do this testing, and they will need cooperation from real estate developers in constructing some "skyports" for landing and taking off.
Can we talk about what the air traffic will look like if and when this actually becomes popular?
This is all being unveiled against the backdrop of Uber (and Lyft) getting kicked away from the curb at SFO, here in the Bay Area, and a complete clusterfuck that unfolded over the weekend in the first test of a new system that shifted all domestic rideshare pickups to the roof of the domestic garage. The ensuing confusion, and traffic, led to wait times of 45 minutes or more for a car.