Uber has dominated the ridesharing market, unleashing a fleet of drivers that undercut traditional taxis on urban roadways. But can the company create the air taxi market, too?
UberAir is the company’s attempt to bring on-demand air travel to major cities, the alternative to scheduled, commercial flights. Uber has already pinpointed two UberAir cities to launch, Dallas and Los Angeles, and is looking for a third. The company has released examples of future routes for Uber Air flights for Delhi, Tokyo, Mumbai, Seoul, Sydney, and Taipei.
The idea is to fly high above clogged roadways, but lower than commercial flights, saving commuters valuable time. Uber suggests that in Delhi, Uber Air will be able to save about two hours every day for air taxi commuters compared to those who dare the roadways.
In a corporate video for future UberAir cities, a white-collar executive ends her work day and orders up an air lift home. At the top of a nearby skyscraper, she scans in her boarding pass – conveniently part of the Uber app – and is escorted onto the skyport to board an oversized drone-like aircraft.
After a vertical lift-off, she looks down at the snarled traffic, satisfied to be flying high above it. A screen displays her flight time: 6 minutes. Back at home, she gets ready to unwind for the evening with her family. The closing tag line: Closer than you think.
UberAir pilot rides aren’t slated to begin until 2020. And the company isn’t expecting a commercial launch until 2023.
What are the challenges UberAir faces?
Just like any mega project, UberAir has feasibility barriers. For one, Uber is pursuing Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) aircraft. Helicopters were among the first consideration, but their fuel inefficiency makes it a bad choice for inexpensive air transportation. They also tend to be loud!
Instead, Uber is designing their own air vehicles. Focusing on speed, performance, and reliability will be the core issues. The time it takes to ride an air taxi and reach the destination will also be a matter of consideration for the end users. To work, UberAir requires cruise-like speed and quick landing and take-offs. Aircraft will be designed to travel at least 150-200 miles per hour and will need to be able to operate in varying weather conditions.
To complicate things even further, Uber also wants their vehicles to be 100 percent electric from day one, relying only on clean energy sources. And while pilots are the drivers in Phase One, Uber’ plans are to have all their air taxis to operate autonomously by 2030.
All this – and it needs to affordable, too!
Looking into air traffic
Occupying urban airspace will be an issue if UberAir operates in higher altitudes. The launch will introduce about a hundred vehicles to the airspace – and that will no doubt create hurdles for Air Traffic Control (ATC). In fact, such a huge addition of vehicles to the airspace may need dedicated ATC systems.
Uber aims to address the issue by managing low-altitude drives through its own servers. That will require the pilot to get permission to avoid conflict with routine air traffic.
Building infrastructure for landing and takeoffs
One of the major operational constraints for UberAir cities is the construction of infrastructure that holds multiple landing pads for the service. Even though these air taxis will rely on vertical takeoffs and landings, every city will need to construct safe landing pads. This will be an enormous expense – acquiring the space, building launch pads at considerable heights, and managing the infrastructure.
Are UberAir Cities Close?
Every business idea starts with a simple concept but expands only with its vision and confidence to achieve the desired goal. Uber has succeeded quite well in ridesharing services around the globe. That may not easily translate to the solution of air-based commuting. The idea may be weird to some, but the ease and comfort it delivers could be priceless.
Taj Wali Khan is an Internet Marketing Executive. He writes SEO articles for online businesses from last three years. Currently, he is associated with PitStopArabia – a leading tire supplier company in UAE dealing in branded tires such as Michelin tyres, Bridgestone Dubai, Toyo, Yokohama, Maxxis and Dunlop.