TECH & SCI­ENCE

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - with Chris Fe­b­vre NEM GRAPHIC ARTIST cfeb­vre@ne­me­dia.com.au

AS a fu­ture en­thu­si­ast, there are quite a few things I’d love to see be­come a re­al­ity in my life­time. Holo­grams, a manned mis­sion to Mars, hu­man-like ro­bots, a cure for cancer, the hov­er­board from Back to the Fu­ture part two, and in­tra-city fly­ing trans­port. And while many of these have al­ready re­ceived sub­stan­tial re­sources and de­vel­op­ment, there’s no way to know for cer­tain if we’ll see them all, as we might imag­ine them, in this cen­tury. But it does look as though at least one of these marvelous tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions are about to see the light of day - a real, fly­ing pub­lic trans­port net­work, and in Mel­bourne or Syd­ney, no less. And it comes in the form of UberAIR - an ex­cit­ing pro­gram that would see fu­tur­is­ti­cally de­signed heli­copters whizzing over the top of cities from one port to another. Dal­las and Los An­ge­les have pre­vi­ously been se­lected as the first two cities to in­sti­gate Uber’s fly­ing trans­port sys­tem, and now the com­pany is look­ing for an in­ter­na­tional can­di­date - us. Now we’re talk­ing. The Cal­i­for­nia big-wig’s of Uber flew over to Aus­tralia in June to be­gin talks with our politi­cians and trans­port au­thor­i­ties, and have an­nounced the pro­gram could be tested here as soon as 2020. If ev­ery­thing goes to plan, bar­ring any un­fore­seen road­blocks (or ‘sky­blocks’ I guess), pas­sen­gers might be able to use Uber’s cheap, pub­lic “fly­ing cars” by 2023 - dras­ti­cally re­duc­ing travel times within our cities. Uber has even iden­ti­fied pos­si­ble routes for its air­craft, show­ing a two-hour trip by car in Syd­ney, for ex­am­ple, could be­come a 20-minute trip by UberAIR. In a mis­sion state­ment, an Uber spokesper­son said, ‘Ev­ery day, mil­lions of hours are wasted on the road world­wide. ‘In Syd­ney, res­i­dents spend seven whole work­ing weeks each year com­mut­ing, two of which are wasted un­pro­duc­tively stuck in grid­lock. ‘On-de­mand avi­a­tion has the po­ten­tial to rad­i­cally im­prove ur­ban mo­bil­ity, giv­ing peo­ple back time lost in their daily com­mutes. ‘Uber is close to the com­mute pain that cit­i­zens in cities around the world feel.’ Well, count me in. Uber has stated that the best cities to demon­strate its pro­gram are those with high pop­u­la­tion den­sity and heavy traf­fic, par­tic­u­larly to an air­port, mak­ing our cities prime can­di­dates for an in­ter­na­tional launch. If suc­cess­ful, lo­cal devel­op­ers in Mel­bourne or Syd­ney will work with Uber to build 25 sky­ports dot­ted around ei­ther city. The way the trans­port sys­tem will work will be very sim­i­lar to how Uber’s cur­rent car trans­port sys­tem works. Pas­sen­gers will re­quest a lift us­ing an app, catch an Uber car to a Sky­port, em­bark on the short flight, and then catch another Uber car to reach their fi­nal des­ti­na­tion. Ide­ally, it’s hoped that at least some of the sky­ports will be close to shop­ping dis­tricts in the cities. And for those fear­ing for pub­lic safety with the ad­vent of a swarm of spin­ning blades whizzing over­head, Uber’s engi­neer­ing di­rec­tor of avi­a­tion, Mark Moore, told FlightGlobal that es­tab­lished helicopter routes above cities will make trav­el­ling by air over short dis­tances far safer than it is to­day. ‘One of the rea­sons why helicopter safety is not as good as other [air­craft] safety is be­cause there is a high de­gree of op­er­a­tional un­cer­tainty,’ he said. ‘We have a huge op­er­a­tional ad­van­tage in terms of safety where we are al­ways re­peat­ing the same thing — a trip from a sky port to a sky port. ‘The ge­og­ra­phy is well known; the struc­tures are well known; the sup­port and sky port is known, and part of our in­te­grated net­work struc­ture.’ Uber should an­nounce the suc­cess­ful can­di­date city by the end of the year. What would be the odds that we could con­vince Uber to build a sky­port here?

with CHRIS

WHERE WE’RE GO­ING, WE DON’T NEED ROADS: A con­cept ren­der­ing of Uber’s sky car, which should soon be tested in ei­ther Mel­bourne or Syd­ney.

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