TECH & SCIENCE
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?
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.