Self-driving cars just became so passé. Uber is now working on flying cars, according to a 98-page white paper on their futuristic project Uber Elevate. They describe the service as “on-demand aviation” and it focus on Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft.
Uber believes that Uber Elevate will free up traffic and shorten commutes. Users could complete the two hour commute from the Marina District of San Francisco to San Jose with a snappy 15 minute flight. Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden wrote in a Medium post, “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 hopes to design a sustainable flying car powered by electricity. They also imagine pilots will operate the vehicles at first, but ultimately the VTOLs could glide through the skies autonomously.
Flying is typically seen as a costly mode of travel, but Uber thinks VTOLs could offer an affordable alternative. In the Medium post Holden said air travel is so expensive now because of “low production volume manufacturing.” VTOLs could be expensive initially, but over time “high production volume manufacturing” will lower costs. VTOLs could even utilize infrastructure already in place, like helipads. Parking garage roofs or land around highway interchanges could also act as “vertiports,” or places where several VTOLs can land, take off, and charge.
Will there be lanes in the sky as on the ground? Uber doesn’t seem to think so. Holden says one of the benefits of VTOLs is they “do not need to follow fixed routes.” If the flying cars can pursue several different paths, this could limit potential air travel congestion.
Via The Verge