Uber has announced plans to expand beyond its ride-hailing smartphone app and its autonomous vehicle research into a new flying taxi service.
According to Reuters, Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product officer, told the Uber Elevate Summit in Dallas earlier this week that the company plans to launch its flying taxi service in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, by 2020.
Uber has partnered with Dubai’s government to provide passenger flights during the city’s 2020 World Expo.
The service will use small electric aircraft, which take off and land vertically. The company has reportedly engaged the services of Aurora, Bell Helicopter, Embraer, Mooney and Pipistrel to design and manufacture these flying taxis.
Regarding regulations for vertical take off and landing aircraft, the company has told Business Insider it is working with NASA, the US’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the National Air Traffic Control Association.
It is also working with Hillwood Properties to construct four heliports with suitable charging infrastructure in and around the Dallas metropolitan area.
The company estimates a flying taxi would take around 15 minutes to travel between San Francisco’s Marina district and San Jose. Google Maps estimates travel time by road to be between an hour and 15 minutes, and two hours.
Uber says it has been able to reduce the cost of the aerial journey to US$1.32 per passenger mile ($1.08 per passenger kilometre), or just a bit more than an equivalent UberX journey.
The ride-hailing company has gone through a rough patch recently with sexual harassment allegations from a former employee, a lawsuit from Google accusing Uber of stealing the search giant’s self-driving technology, and footage emerging of its CEO arguing with an Uber driver about pay rates.
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