Uber wants to bring the world flying cars on-demand, and it thinks Australia might just be the place to test out this Jetsons vision of the future.
The ride-sharing company is officially setting up a third test city for its UberAir initiative, after Dallas and Los Angeles, and has announced it is working with five countries to launch UberAir internationally. Uber made the announcement at its Uber Elevate conference in Tokyo on Thursday.
Australia, Brazil, France, India and Japan have all been slated as potential sites for the trials, which would see Uber running test flights, road-testing (sky-testing?) the technology and working with local regulators to establish the framework for making on-demand aviation a reality.
The promise? A future where you can "push a button and get a flight."
The company says it is now officially working with regulators and city planners across the five countries, with plans to announce its third Uber Air test city within six months. Uber name-checked a number of cities and regions in each country in its announcement.
- Australia: Sydney and Melbourne
- Brazil: Rio de Janeiro and the state of São Paulo
- France: Paris
- India: Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore
- Japan: Tokyo
Uber Australia general manager Susan Anderson said Uber Air could be a "game changer" for local transport in Sydney or Melbourne.
"We had the opportunity to meet with local regulators and policymakers recently, and look forward to commencing more detailed conversations about the potential for bringing Uber Air to Australia," she said. "For this vision to become a reality we will need to plan ahead in partnership with cities and regulators to ensure we create an urban aviation rideshare network that is safe, environmentally conscious and supports multi-modal transport options."
When Uber Air gets off the ground, you won't be seeing sedans with bolted on wings. Known as eVTOL aircraft (short for electric vertical take-off and landing), these vehicles look more like futuristic hobby drones upsized for humans. Think multiple propellers, streamlined aerodynamic designs and high-tech electric batteries (Uber's head of battery engineering, Celina Mikolajczak, joined the company from Tesla).
Uber is currently working with partners such as Embraer and Boeing-owned Aurora Flight Sciences to develop vehicles, and the companyfor an eVTOL concept vehicle at its second Uber Elevate conference in Los Angeles in May.
The eCRM-003, as it's known internally at Uber, features four pairs of co-rotating rotors (a total of eight propellors) driven by electric motors to create vertical lift. That vertical lift means the aircraft doesn't need a long runway for take-off, so starting a flight will be as simple as jumping off from a "Skyport" on top of a building.
The eCRM is capable of cruising speeds of 150 to 200 miles per hour (240 to 320 kilometres/hour) and can go 60 miles on a single charge. Uber also says the electric motors make for a much quieter and more efficient flight, compared to a helicopter.
Uber has previously said it wants to get flying cars off the ground, with plans for an Uber Air on-demand air taxi service . But it won't be alone as it pushes for this ambitious goal.
Rolls-Royce, and (the Silicon Valley darling financed by Google founder Larry Page) are all working on concepts to take to the skies in the form of , high-tech rescue aircraft and even unpiloted "personal aviation" vehicles in the future.
Update, Aug. 30 at 4:28 p.m. AEST: Adds comment from Uber Australia.
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