Ride-hailing giant Uber, on Tuesday, announced that it has chosen Melbourne as the first city outside the US for its planned air taxi service. The company said that the flight tests will begin in 2020, with commercial operations slated to start in 2023. In 2018, Uber had announced Los Angeles (LA) and Dallas as the two main cities to begin the use of aerial taxis, and while looking for a third city outside the US, the company had revealed that it was considering India’s Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore as potential candidates, along with cities in Brazil, France and Japan.
As the company looks to deploy air taxis and its corresponding infrastructure by 2023, Uber firmly believes that the air taxi will eventually become cheaper than driving a car. “Our vision is that on a daily basis, it’ll be more economically rational for you to fly than to drive,” said Uber spokesperson Eric Allison on the sidelines of the flying taxi summit Uber Elevate in the US.
The air taxi service will operate via the Uber app, allowing passengers to travel across a network of landing pads called “Skyports”. Uber claimed that its Air service could cut the trip between Melbourne Airport and the Central Business District (CBD) from between “25 minutes and around an hour by car in peak hour” to “around 10 minutes”. It claims its skyports should be capable of “handling up to 1,000 landings per hour, even within footprints as dense as an acre or two”.
Uber’s planned air fleet includes electric jet-powered vehicles -- part helicopter, part drone and part fixed-wing aircraft -- running multiple small rotors capable of both vertical take-off and landing and rapid horizontal flight, according to a media report. Allison also stated that India continues to be an important market for the purpose and that the team is quite interested in terms of potential for Uber Air Market in the country.
Allison said that it is certainly on top of the list of next places the taxi giant wants to head to. “India presents challenges with respect to the way we are actually able to operationalise Uber Air in the country and we had some discussions with the aviation authority and several of the state government representatives and it looks promising,” added Allison.