Uber one step closer to launching flying taxi service

Los Angeles could see a new way of commuting by 2023

Using autonomous drones for commuting is in the near future as Uber has teamed up with Nasa to deliver the first efficient flying taxi service in urban areas.

Uber has revealed its latest self-piloted flying car concept at its second annual Elevate conference in Los Angeles, with the new aircraft resembling a mashup of a plane and a helicopter.

Four rotors stacked along the spine of the plane are supposed to allow the option of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), a feature Uber presents as its main advantage – even though it hasn’t yet been successfully developed. A fifth rotor on the tail will take care of the forward propulsion to reach the speed around 240-320 km/h.

The companies’ aim is to launch commercial trips in 2023 with the availability to book rides via the Uber app.

“We really want to show the people of Los Angeles what will it be like in 2023 when we launch this for real, when you can push a button, get a flight and cruise over the traffic as opposed to waiting inside it,” said Matt Wing, Uber’s head of communication for advanced technologies.

However, it will likely take years until the technology is ready and broadly available. The flying cars will require high levels of safety while operating in crowded airspace.

The aircraft looking like a mashup of a helicopter and a  plane shoud reach the speed between 240 and 320 k mh — Uber
The aircraft looking like a mashup of a helicopter and a plane should reach the speed between 240 and 320 km/h — Uber

The partnership with Nasa could be a promising milestone because the agency has been already on the move toward working out the regulations required to introduce the service to the public.

“Urban air mobility could revolutionise the way people and cargo move in our cities and fundamentally change our lifestyle much like smartphones have,” Nasa associate administrator Jaiwon Shin said in a statement.

The unveiled model looks more like a helicopter than a drone, but the manufacturers promise it would have various advantages.

“VTOL aircraft will make use of electric propulsion so they have zero operational emissions and will likely be quiet enough to operate in cities without disturbing the neighbours,” Uber Elevate said in an official report.

“At flying altitude, noise from advanced electric vehicles will be barely audible. Even during take-off and landing, the noise will be comparable to existing background noise.”