Uber Technologies Inc. sees a future where its time-strapped customers can just as easily request a flying Uber. The ride hailing company on Tuesday unveiled its drone-like, all-electric prototypes for its fleet of airborne taxis at its second annual Uber Elevate Summit.
Uber is focused on getting the world’s first air-taxi service off the ground within the next two to five years. It's a world where passengers request an Uber Air on their phone, then head to rooftop sky ports where the aircraft take off.
“We want to create the network around those vehicles so regular people can take these taxis in the air for longer distances when they want to avoid traffic at affordable prices,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CBS This Morning.
"We think cities are going to go vertical in terms of transportation and we want to make that a reality," he added.
Uber's chief product officer, Jeff Holden told CBS the air taxis are still in “the design phase” and explained the technology works like a helicopter, with stacked rotors to create lift. But unlike a chopper, the aircraft will have “clusters of small propellers and run on electricity, making it quieter, more efficient and more affordable.”
Ultimately, company officials say Uber’s sky ports will be equipped to handle 200 takeoffs and landings an hour, or one every 24 seconds. At first, the flying cars will be piloted, but the company aims for the aircraft to fly without a pilot.
CNBC reported that Uber passengers will initially pay the same as an Uber Black over the same distance, but once the service has enough passengers, the cost will decrease to Uber X rates for the same trip.
Uber is partnering with NASA on developing the new UberAIR service
“Urban air mobility could revolutionize the way people and cargo move in our cities and fundamentally change our lifestyle much like smart phones have,” Jaiwon Shin, who is with NASA’s Aeronautics Research mission Directorate, said in a statement.
The company plans to roll out UberAIR in Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles in 2023, with testing in those cities beginning in 2020.