Uber's chief product officer, Jeff Holden, brought VTOL to the stage at The Nantucket Project Sunday in Massachusetts. In a panel moderated by Kara Swisher from Vox Media's Recode, Holden said that Uber is currently researching vertical-flight possibilities.
UberCHOPPER already exists, with an Uber/Corporate Helicopters endeavor in 2014 to fly people in Southern California to the Coachella music festival. The service is still available, with a different operator, during the summer festival seasons in California. But according to Swisher, Holden was talking about rotorcraft on a bigger scale — landing autonomous helicopters on helipads on top of city buildings.
While recognizing that publicly accessible, autonomous VTOL aircraft is fare for the distant future, Holden told Swisher that he believes resources will be available for an Uber VTOL system within a decade. Swisher noted the aggressiveness of this timeline, but the company is fresh off its release of autonomous cars in Pittsburg earlier this month. The idea for that is only a few years old, according to Holden.
Holden's VTOL vision differs from UberCHOPPER. While a helicopter is comparable to using Uber for oneself and maybe a few friends, a VTOL Uber would be like using UberPool — many people riding at once. City commuters would be the target audience for a VTOL UberPool, significantly cutting down travel time.