Uber Unveils ‘Flying Taxi’ Concept

Up, up and away. Uber wants to rule the skies.

At its second Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, Uber showed off its latest design reference for its electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) concept, a flying taxi for its future urban aviation ride-hailing network. It hopes to offer rides through a new UberAir service by 2023, starting in Dallas and Los Angeles.

Known internally as the eCRM-003, the eVTOL common reference model looks a bit like a cross between a gigantic drone and a small airplane.

The design is built around the passenger compartment, featuring space for up to four passengers with their personal bags or backpacks. Early eVTOLs will be piloted by a human, but the ultimate goal is for these vehicles to become autonomous.

“We think cities are going to go vertical in terms of transportation and we want to make that a reality,” Dara Khosrowshahi told CBS News‘ Bianna Golodryga.

In its new guidelines, Uber said the flying taxis will travel between 150 and 200 miles per hour and at a cruising altitude of 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the ground. That’s much slower and lower to the ground than commercial flights, which cruise around 500 mph at 35,000 feet. It also set a goal for vehicles to fly 60 miles on a single charge.  Customers would request the flight through the Uber app.

Uber has put together a team of specialists to work on the project. It hired Mark Moore, a veteran engineer for NASA, to be its director of engineering, and Celina Mikolajczak, a lead battery expert for Tesla, to focus on developing electric batteries for the eVTOLs. It tapped aircraft companies, including Bell, Brazil-based Embraer and Boeing-owned Aurora Flight Sciences, to develop and manufacture eVTOLs that could be used for the service.

“We want to create the network around those vehicles so that regular people can take these taxis in the air for longer distances when they want to avoid traffic at affordable prices,” Khosrowshahi said.

The company announced Tuesday that it will collaborate with NASA, an existing partner, to run simulations of the small aircraft flying in Dallas-Fort Worth airspace during peak times for air traffic.

Uber Head of Vehicle Engineering Team Rob McDonald made it clear during the Elevate Summit keynote that “Uber is not developing a vehicle.” Instead, Uber hopes this reference concept will serve as a springboard for its partners who will handle the final design and manufacturing of the eVTOL vehicles. The first eVTOL demonstrations from those partners are expected by 2020.

Source: CNET