In the future, catching an Uber could involve not just being driven, but being flown. The ride hailing company, which recently went public, is imagining what the next forms of transport might look like, and how to ensure it leads their charge. And that means looking skywards.
Uber Air‘s flying taxis are specifically designed for quick trips, and for easy boarding and disembarking. The company unveiled a reference design for the new cabin at its Uber Elevate conference in Washington on Tuesday. It also announced Melbourne, Australia, as the first international market for Uber Air, after Dallas and Los Angeles. Test flights will start in 2020 and commercial operations in 2023.
The eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) aircraft seat four… like most sedans. But you’re likely to be in an Uber Air taxi for far less time that you’d be in a Prius or Corolla. The four-seater format – designed with Safran Cabin – will be used by Uber Air’s manufacturing partners, Boeing’s Aurora Flight Sciences, Embraer, Bell, Pipistrel, Karem and Jaunt Air Mobility.
Numerous models and mock-ups at the conference don’t just show us how these futuristic taxis will look, but how they’ll work. They must not only be comfortable and safe, but lightweight and easy to move in and out of. Goodbye cupholders and other non-essential seat clutterers.
“We can move transportation off the ground and into the sky in a meaningful way,” says Eric Allison, the Head of Uber Elevate. Given some 93 million people a month use Uber (in 700 cities and some 53 countries), its enthusiasm for finding new ways ferry those customers around is understandable.
The ride-sharing service also announced the first manifestation of Uber Air, called Uber Copter. It will start operating on 9 July 2019, ferrying people from Lower Manhattan to JFK Airport and back. The flight will last eight minutes – instead of the usual hour or two in New York City’s traffic – and cost an estimated $200 to $225. The total trip, including car transport on either side, should only last a half hour.
Uber Copter will initially only be available to Uber’s Rewards programme Platinum and Diamond members… so start building up your points (and bank balance) for your next trip to the Big Apple.
[Update: The pictures above are the Bell Nexus interpretation of Uber Air’s reference design. The actual reference design version is below.]