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Car Technology

Melbourne picked as first city outside US for Uber Air flying taxi service

Uber on Tuesday added Melbourne, Australia, to the list of cities the company is looking to launch a flying taxi service in. It’s the first non-U.S. city on the list, which also includes Dallas, Texas, and Los Angeles, California.

The service, to be called Uber Air and run by the Uber Elevate division, will rely on small electric aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing. These aircraft would travel between dedicated landing sites known as Skyports, where Uber cars will be waiting to take passengers to their final destination.

Uber said the Australian government was supportive of the company’s plans for a flying taxi service and that Melbourne was well-suited for the service, due to its layout and congestion levels. A 12-mile journey between Melbourne’s CBD and main airport can take as much as an hour during peak hour. Uber said its flying taxi service should be able to cut this to around 10 minutes.

Pricing wasn’t mentioned but Uber said the long-term goal is to get the pricing level to match the current level of the UberX car-based service.

Artist's impression of Uber Air service

Artist’s impression of Uber Air service

Uber is working with aviation companies to develop its aircraft, though is yet to show a functional prototype. The aircraft are meant to reach elevations of 1,000 to 2,000 feet and travel along pre-determined routes, and Uber is working with NASA to develop a management system for the service. Initially there would be a human pilot but eventually Uber aims to move to fully autonomous aircraft.

Assuming everything goes to plan, the first test flights will commence in 2020, with commercial operations to follow by 2023.

Uber flying taxi prototype

Uber flying taxi prototype

“Uber’s technology is changing the way people move around their cities; from bikes to pooled rides, we are always looking for ways to reduce the need for private car ownership,” Susan Anderson, who heads Uber in Australia and North Asia, said in a statement. “In the coming years, with Uber Air, we want to make it possible for people to push a button and get a flight.”

The news comes the same week that Uber announced Uber Copter, a service that will allow passengers to travel from Manhattan to Kennedy International Airport in a helicopter. The service is scheduled to commence on July 9 and will make a trip that can stretch to two hours in a car take just eight minutes in the helicopter. A trip here will range between $200 to $225, Uber said.



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