Uber Wants To Bring Its Fly­ing Taxis to Traf­fic-Con­gested L.A. Ahead Of The Olympics

ForbesWeekly - - NEWS - BY BIZ CAR­SON, FORBES STAFF FOL­LOW BIZ CAR­SON AT www.forbes.com/sites/biz­car­son

Fly­ing taxis sound like a fu­tur­is­tic idea, but Uber wants to test the idea in Los An­ge­les by 2020. The traf­fic-laden city is the sec­ond city in the U.S., fol­low­ing Dal­las-Fort Worth, to be se­lected as a test bed for UberAir’s net­work of air taxis.

Uber’s plan is to string to­gether a net­work of elec­tri­cal ver­ti­cal take-off and -land­ing ve­hi­cles, com­monly called eVTOL, and make them avail­able on-de­mand. Sim­i­lar to he­li­copters, the eVTOL air­craft would take off and land on the tops of build­ings and be able to cover dis­tances more quickly and di­rectly com­pared to cars stuck in traf­fic on Los An­ge­les con­gested roads.

Ac­cord­ing to Uber’s own anal­y­sis, a 200 MPH al­l­elec­tric ride across Los An­ge­les would be “price com­pet­i­tive” to an UberX ride of the same dis­tance. It will also be much faster than a car ride on the ground, Uber claims. In one ex­am­ple, Uber’s re­search pre­dicts that an UberAir ride from Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port to the Sta­ples Cen­ter would take less than 30 min­utes us­ing UberAir. An UberX ride be­tween the same dis­tances gen­er­ally lasts closer to an hour and a half.

“Just as sky­scrapers al­lowed cities to use lim­ited land more ef­fi­ciently, ur­ban air trans­porta­tion will use three-di­men­sional airspace to al­le­vi­ate trans­porta­tion con­ges­tion on the ground,” Uber wrote in its white-pa­per on Uber El­e­vate, its name for the over­all net­work, which it un­veiled in Oc­to­ber 2016.

In Los An­ge­les, Uber plans to part­ner with Sand­stone Prop­er­ties to de­velop take-off and land­ing hubs for its net­work of eVTOL planes and plans to bring on ad­di­tional real es­tate part­ners ahead of the an­tic­i­pated launch, the com­pany said. In ad­di­tion to Los An­ge­les, Uber is work­ing to launch sim­i­lar tests in Dal­las-Fort Worth and Dubai.

By the time the Olympics come to Los An­ge­les in 2028, Uber’s Chief Prod­uct Of­fi­cer Jeff Holden said in a press re­lease that he ex­pects the ser­vice to be com­mer­cially avail­able and al­ready in “heavy use” by Los An­ge­les res­i­dents. At scale, the com­pany en­vi­sions tens of thou­sands of flights hap­pen­ing in Los An­ge­les each day, ac­cord­ing to Holden.

In April, Uber first an­nounced that it had al­ready signed on part­ners to pro­duce the eVTOL air­craft to be used on the net­work, in­clud­ing Aurora Flight Sci­ences, Pip­istrel Air­craft, Em­braer, Mooney and Bell He­li­copter.

But the choice of Los An­ge­les also means Uber will be work­ing in what’s also a hot­bed for next-gen­era- tion aerospace ac­tiv­ity. Along with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Burt Ru­tan’s Scaled Com­pos­ites that’s de­vel­op­ing Paul Allen’s mas­sive Stra­to­launch plane and Richard Bran­son’s new Vir­gin Or­bit op­er­a­tion in Long Beach, the re­gion is home to grow­ing clus­ter of star­tups. These in­clude Rocket Lab, Phase Four, Rel­a­tiv­ity, Whit­inghill Aerospace, Mas­ten Space Sys­tems and In­teror­bital Sys­tems. While Uber will be a new en­trant into the al­ready vi­brant aerospace com­mu­nity, it’s al­ready plan­ning on hold­ing its next avi­a­tion sum­mit in Los An­ge­les in 2018.

“We are bring­ing UberAIR to Los An­ge­les in no small part be­cause Mayor Garcetti has em­braced tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, mak­ing L.A. a hub for the fu­ture,” Holden said in the re­lease. “In this case, tech­nol­ogy will al­low L.A. res­i­dents to lit­er­ally fly over the city’s his­tor­i­cally bad traf­fic, giv­ing them time back to use in far more pro­duc­tive ways, whether more leisure time with friends and fam­ily or more time to work.” FW

An ex­am­ple of a fu­ture Uber fly­ing taxi.

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