Uber plans on launching a network of flying electric vehicles

Posted April 26, 2017

The ride-share company announced Tuesday during its Elevate conference in Dallas, Texas that it's partnering with cities, aviation manufacturers, real estate and electric charging companies to make flying cars a reality.

Though it carries the potential to cut down on commute times and reduce transit fatalities, it's clear from Uber's own admitted concerns that Elevate is a massive undertaking.

The ridesharing giant announced a series of partnerships to manufacture "vertical takeoff and landing" (VTOL) vehicles and put networks in place, a system dubbed Uber Elevate.

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Jeff Holden, Uber's chief product officer, hates the phrase "flying cars". Yes, Uber is working on flying cars and has set a date of 2020 for a demo.

You may not realise it, but flying-cars are slowly becoming all the rage and are very much seen as being the next big thing in transport.

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Of course, cost could drive down the use of flying taxis.

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If you are wondering how come there are so many news and announcement about electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft lately, like Lilium's maiden flight and Kitty Hawk coming out of stealth, it looks like it's because they timed the releases with Uber's Elevate Summit in Dallas this week. But Holden says that Uber's models indicate that even early operations will cost $1.32 per passenger mile, which is the cost of an UberX.

Meanwhile, in full awareness that its existing business could be disrupted by autonomous vehicles, Uber is already investing heavily in self-driving cars, and is taking one step further by protecting itself from being disrupted by aviation as well. Uber is also in collaboration with businesses that the company needs to develop VTOL vehicles and charging stations.

ChargePoint has raised almost $250M since inception in 2007 and hosts over 33,900 chargers globally to provide over 23M charges to electric vehicles. Bell Helicopter has agreed to develop hybrid electric and electric aircraft technologies to support Uber's flying taxi vision. However, speaking on a panel at an Uber press event in Dallas, Rob Wiesenthal, chief executive of the Blade helicopter service, confirmed he is a part of working group to explore bringing VTOL transportation to Gotham. Uber wants to create a way for commuters to fly over it. The five companies include Aurora Flight Sciences, Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, Mooney and Bell Helicopter. Just this week, Larry Page's Alphabet (Google's parent company) announced that it's Kitty Hawk flying auto - which looks like a Spider-Man vehicle - will apparently go on sale by the end of this year.

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