Uber and Hyundai make Headway into Flying Taxi at CES 2020
The ride-hailing industry is off to a remarkable start to the decade as Uber teams up with Hyundai for flying taxis. Though the official announcement came at CES 2020, both businesses shared their ambitions regarding flying cars years ago. Hyundai is believed to be working on this project for quite some time now. They signaled the unveiling at CES only a couple of months back but announced what they call “Project Elevate” over a year ago.
Uber is publicly working on upping their game in skies since 2016 when they first announced Uber Elevate. Hyundai is not the first manufacturer to collaborate with Uber on aerial mobility services. Bell joined forces with Uber at CES 2019 to announce their air ambitions using Bell’s Nexus Vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft.
The long road to reaching the flying taxi
Uber remains the top stakeholder in the global on-demand services industry since its inception in 2009. A decade of absolute dominance allows the business to define and shape the sources of future mobility. We are yet to witness an Uber flying taxi though and it may take a few years. Uber officially announced 2023 as the year to publicly launch aerial service.
This ride-hailing giant is not only one of the pioneers of flying taxi but stands among pioneering autonomous cars as well. Uber is working on self-driving taxis for more than half a decade.
However, their autonomous taxi campaign was hit with a serious blow in May 2018 when one of the vehicles fatally hit a pedestrian. Uber executives are still struggling to build confidence in public and pass through regulatory phases since the incident.
Prior to collaborating with Bell, Uber partnered with a number of VTOL aircraft manufacturers including Bell and Aurora Flight Sciences in the major manufacturers and Embraer, Mooney, and Karem among the smaller ones. Jaunt and Joby are the latest additions in Uber air taxi manufacturing partners.
The struggle in making considerable progress with autonomous cars is one major hurdle on their way to rule skies. This is why the business is collaborating with a large number of UAV manufacturers. If one manufacturer fails to satisfy their business requirements, they will have plenty of other options to work with.
Uber begins to set rules for aerial taxi service
Uber is in the process of setting up the rules of the game that it is going to play for the next few decades. In the absence of any notable competitor, the company is trying to ensure that regulators come up with rules that best suit the ride-hailing prodigy.
Uber Elevate Summit is an annual conference and exhibition organized by Uber as part of its Elevate project to identify the challenges in flying taxi and come up with the most promising solutions. Uber executives take this conference as an opportunity to intensify their relationship with other stakeholders including influential bodies responsible for air taxi regulation.
The company introduced the eVTOL common reference model (eCRM) in 2016 with a few amendments in the subsequent years. The model serves as the set of standards for manufacturers and designers to ensure compliance with safety regulations and operational efficiency. Although eCRM originally emerged for vehicles controlled by pilots, Uber reuses it for UAVs as well.
As per eCRM, each vehicle should be capable of cruising at 150 mph and continue operations of 25 miles and less with a charge time of as low as 7 minutes. Moreover, the eVTOL should be able to fly for 60 miles before switching on to reserve energy and should be almost noise-free.
The efforts toward succeeding at flying Uber taxi is not limited to collaborations with VTOL UAV manufacturers and influencing the regulators. Uber also went into partnership with NASA to develop air traffic plan for the times ahead. As per the company’s executives, Uber flying taxi would be operating in the urban areas with individuals needing to go farther than a vehicle’s range would require hops.
How exactly does Uber Flying Taxi work?
Uber aims to build what it calls Skyports. These ports would essentially be the platforms where a vehicle would take off and land. Besides, the port would also have an infrastructure for charging. Like vehicle manufacturers, Uber also partners with architects to develop the designs for Skyports. The company claims that Skyports would be capable of handling 1,000 landings per hour while occupying the least possible space.
Since hundreds of vehicles would be aerial in a region as small as having a radius less than 5 miles, Uber air taxi or for that matter any aerial taxi service would need to have highly sophisticated software that enables each drone in the network to complete operations seamlessly.
Elevate Cloud Services is the model that Uber is aiming to use to ensure seamless activity. This cloud-based operation would allow information sharing in real-time between aircraft and network operators. It is notable that operators would only be used for monitoring as the entire operation would remain automated.
Video below is a depiction of Skyports, the kind of drones and operations.
An individual aiming to get a ride on Uber drone taxi would need to schedule via mobile app. Similar to what passengers do while booking a traditional Uber taxi. However, passengers would need to travel to the nearest Skyport. Instead of an Uber plane landing on the driveway of passengers’ homes.
Competitors of Flying Uber Taxi
Although Uber introduced flying taxi in partnership with manufacturers earlier as well, yet their collaboration with. Bell was the first instance of UAV based aerial taxi. A couple of service providers are operating in various parts of the world using human-controlled VTOL aircraft before Uber.
Volocopter in Singapore is performing operations on a commercial scale for many years. It has also introduced the service in Dubai recently. However, Volocopter only operates aircraft controlled by humans.
Boeing is also aiming to play a central role in the flying taxi industry. Although Aurora Flight Services – one of the subsidiaries of Boeing – is currently in partnership with Uber to mass-produce Uber Flying Taxi. Yet Boeing is likely to become one of the top competitors of Uber after large-scale commercialization.
Are you planning to get into flying taxi business?
Uber plans to launch demonstrator flights in Dallas and Los Angeles on a limited scale. In mid-2020 and gradually increasing the scale up to 2023 where they plan to launch commercial operations. The demonstrations are likely to occur around the time when the 4th Elevate Summit would be underway in June 2020.
Thus, Uber Flying Taxi is expected to take to the skies very soon. The demonstration at successive CES events, first with Bell and now with Hyundai, indicates its commitment toward flying taxi ambitions. Although more competitors may emerge in the future, yet Uber is currently facing no serious rivalry. This would be the most suitable time for new players to jump in and grab a significant market share.
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