Uber aims to prove once again its intention to stay at the crest of innovation with the latest updates of its flying car concept, which it plans to launch by 2020.
In a recent video (watch below), the company depicts passengers ordering flying cabs vie their app and then taking off form a “skyport” on top of an office building.
Last week, the company announced a contract with NASA to develop the software required to manage the traffic and the vehicles.
Uber said it planned to make the first flying cabs available cross LA by 2020. They will be able to fly four passengers at 200 mph.
The company’s ambition is to completely redesign the way we commute today, a move which has a potential to save millions of hours wasted daily on the road worldwide.
“Last year, the average San Francisco resident spent 230 hours commuting between work and home—that’s half a million hours of productivity lost every single day. In Los Angeles and Sydney, residents spend seven whole working weeks each year commuting, two of which are wasted unproductively stuck in gridlock”, the company says.
To this end, Uber needs to overcome a number of barriers, from regulations, to technology and infrastructure. And let’s not forget the battery required for the type of flying car that the company plans to use. It does not exist today. At least as far as the amount of energy per unit weight is concerned. Each of these obstacles is addressed in details in the white paper of the flying cab project, which it calls “Uber Elevate”.
The company plans to utilize a technology known as VTOL, or Vertical Take-off and Landing, and pronounced vee-tol.
“Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, VTOL […] will enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities”, Uber predicts.
VTOL aircraft will be electric flying vehicles akin to today’s helicopters, only much more improved. Thanks to recent technological advancements, the former will be less noisy and polluting, less expensive for mass-scale production and markedly safer than helicopters.
Existing helipads, parking lots, rooftops and even empty land alongside highways could be repurposed for the required VTOL which has a potential to be “far lower cost”.
“For example, the UK’s proposed High Speed 2 railway would cost taxpayers £27 billion ($33 billion) over nine years for a single straight-line route between London and Birmingham — that’s nearly $280 million/mile, a projection that continues to increase”, the company says.
In the long run however, VTOLs have a chance to become an affordable form of daily commute on a mass scale. The company predicts that they will be even less expensive than owning a car.
Thanks to technologies like pilot augmentation, e.g. autopilot, VTOLs can become twice as safe as driving a car. In addition, such technologies can reduce significantly the time needed to train a pilot which now takes thousands of hours.
Uber launched in 2008 and at the end of 2016 it was ranked the 52nd most valuable private company in the US with a revenue of $6.5 billion.