At the Elevate Summit, Uber announces partnerships and promises flying cars demonstrations in Dallas and Dubai by 2020.
Uber is looking for their remix to “Ignition.” I.e., a jam so good you reluctantly ignore all the shady stuff the creator has done. The tech company would very much like you to believe that redemption lies in a network of flying cars they can bring you by 2023.
In October, the ride-sharing company released a 99-page white paper on the subject, which they then expanded upon with a three-day conference in Dallas for people in the aviation technology, venture capital, vehicle manufacturing and regulation industries. The Elevate Summit, as they called it, provided a slightly clearer picture as to what Uber has in works.
Lest you expect them to be responsible for too much, Uber announced an extensive list of partners. As Wired reports, Dallas and Dubai are their partner cities and will play host to the first demonstrations in 2020. (2023 is when Uber expects to have a fully functioning flight-share network.) Real estate companies in both cities (Hillwood Properties and Dubai Holding, respectively) will identify where to build and be responsible for building “vertiports,” the combo helipad and charging station Uber’s flying cars will require. Chargepoint will “design, develop and deploy” the vehicle’s infrastructure.
The most important partners of all are those actually building the flying cars, which are technically eVTOLS, or electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles. eVTOLs are essentially smaller, quieter autonomous helicopters. Uber has enlisted five companies for this task: Aurora Flight Sciences, Pipstrel, Bell Helicopter, Embraer and Mooney.
Then, of course, there’s the Federal Aviation Agency. The FAA will need to regulate these new aircrafts. This involves developing federal safety regulations and an entirely new world of air traffic control. Uber hopes that Dallas and Dubai will help speed up the process of navigating such regulatory red tape. The mayor of Dallas, however, seems to think Uber will handle this, telling Wired, “the burden to overcoming the various hurdles (FAA, air traffic control…) will rest mostly on Uber in this exciting pilot.”
In any case, you need a vehicle before you need to navigate the FAA and, partnered or not, Uber is still quite far from a prototype for an electric, vertical take off and landing vehicle capable of flying 100 miles in 40 minutes.
Uber, who previously committed to working self-driving cars before being sued by Google for allegedly stealing self-driving care technology, is very much planning for the future. The company envisions a world in which we use VTOLs the same way we use cars and, more specifically, the same way we use Uber, today. For commuting, for getting around cities, for any kind of easy, spontaneous movement – all for the same price as an UberX ride.