Commercial, Products

Uber Outlines Air-Taxi R&D

By S.L. Fuller | November 2, 2016
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The idea of readily accessible aerial commuter options for large cities isn’t anything new. Airbus Group, for example, is designing a flying bus and hopes to test subsystems for a flying car by the end of 2017. Uber is gearing up to get into the on-demand aerial market as well, having spoken about future endeavors in the area at The Nantucket Project in September. Talks have turned into a white paper, which the company published Thursday.

Known for its wholly digital, taxi-like service, Uber Technologies Inc. dedicates resources to transportation research and development. In September, Uber’s Advanced Technologies Center (ATC) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, put its self-driving cars on the road for the first time. Now, the company sees VTOL in its future, outfitting cities with what it calls “vertiports” (which would function like hangars) and “vertistops” (which would function like helipads). Uber already offers limited helicopter transportation services in UberCHOPPER. But the company sees something different than helicopters for the future, as it describes them as “… noisy, inefficient, polluting and expensive for mass-scale use,” in the white paper’s introduction.

The white paper — titled, “Fast-Forwarding to a Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation” — gives context to what VTOL is right now, and how Uber might use it in the future. A 97-page document, it covers topics like how an air taxi system would get to the market, safety, experience, operation, fiscal aspects, benefits and more.

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Signifying the start of tangible urban VTOL transportation research and development, Uber is entering the conversation with the rest of the industry. The company hopes to play a role in helping the future VTOL industry bear fruit not only through its own actions, but also through collaboration. Uber plans to galvanize manufacturers, regulators, and public and private sector city stakeholders in a summit to discuss this topic in early 2017.

Graphic courtesy of Uber

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