Uber Has Plans For An On-Demand Flying Car Service

Image courtesy of Uber Elevate

Every time some company comes up with an idea that’s sort of like a flying car, we have to ask, “Yeah, but what about living like The Jetsons?” Uber has apparently been thinking about this too, announcing that it’s been working on a flying car project.

Uber published a lengthy white paper [PDF] today on the project as well as an accompanying Medium post, detailing its efforts to launch an on-demand flying car service called Uber Elevate.

Uber says the network of small, fully electric aircraft will be able to take off and land vertically to pick up passengers, thus earning them the moniker of Vertical Take-off and Landing aircraft, or VTOL. The aircraft will enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities.

“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 says.

To be clear, these aren’t actually flying cars in that they don’t drive on both the ground and navigate the skies, as Wired points out. Either way, there are still many obstacles to overcome before you can hail a VTOL to transport you above the crowded streets, Uber notes.

First of all, VTOLs would have to comply with various regulations from aviation authorities, most notably the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency.

“VTOL aircraft are new from a certification standpoint, and progress with certification of new aircraft concepts has historically been very slow, though the process is changing in a way that could accelerate things significantly,” the company notes.

Battery technology isn’t yet up to snuff either, as it’s not sufficient for long-rage commutes in something like a VTOL.

Then there are things like air traffic control, vehicle efficiency, vehicle performance and reliability, cost and affordability, emissions, infrastructure to support VTOLs taking off and landing, pilot training and of course, safety.

“We believe VTOL aircraft need to be safer than driving a car on a fatalities-per-passenger-mile basis,” Uber says.

All that being said, when will this be happening? Uber believes it can be “achievable in the coming decade.” See you guys up there.

Fast-Forwarding to a Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation [Uber]

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