Uber wants to begin testing drone flights for its Uber Eats service. Image courtesy of Uber
Uber is on its way toward launching an air taxi service in an international country within the next five years, the ridesharing giant said at the Uber Elevate Asia Pacific Expo in Tokyo last week. The company also said it would experiment with drone delivery for its Uber Eats service.
The shortlisted finalist nations that could be the next Uber Air host include Japan, India, Australia, Brazil and France. One of those countries would join Dallas and Los Angeles, which were previously announced as the first two launch cities in the U.S. at the second annual Uber Elevate Summit in May. An internaitonal finalist city is expected to be announced in the next six months.
Uber aims to make air taxi service commercially available by 2023, with flight demonstrations to begin in 2020.
The hopeful nations will be evaluated on three criteria. Uber is looking for a sizable market with a strong need for innovative transportation solutions, strong commitment from local governments and communities and enabling conditions that have a robust Uber ground network in place.
Uber listed a few reasons it had chosen each of the listed finalists. The company already cited its Advanced Technology Center in Paris, the city where Uber was born. Japan was chosen due to its innovative and "enviable" public transit system.
"We’re excited to invite megacities including Tokyo and Osaka to explore the future of transportation with us," Uber said in a statement.
Uber's newest inaugural expo took place in Japan, where Daisaku Hiraki, parliamentary vice-minister of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry touted a vision of flying cars there.
"We see much potential in flying cars, and we anticipate that flying cars can be used not only to help solve traffic congestion in urban areas, but it will also help increase mobility between city centers and remote islands and mountainous areas, promote tourism in Japan as well as enhance disaster relief operations," Hiraki said. The ministry said Aug. 29 it aims to launch a conference focused on future air mobility.
Food delivery service Uber Eats has seen its fastest growth in the Asia Pacific region, the company said. Uber is expanding that service's global footprint by expanding to several cities in India and Japan even before Uber's flagship ridesharing service is established.
The company wants to take advantage of this movement by offering food delivery by air via drones. To do so, Uber would leverage the same technologies from its Uber Air initiative. It also cited the FAA's Integration Pilot Program to adapt use cases and tests the agency is conducting in San Diego.