Imagine commuting from Mumbai airport to CST or from Gurgaon to Central Delhi in just 10 minutes. Well, that is exactly what Uber is envisioning for urban transport in the coming years with Uber Air, its concept for urban air mobility.
On Thursday, Uber announced India as one of the five countries shortlisted for its air mobility solution along with Japan, France, Australia, and Brazil. One city from this shortlist could end up being the third location where Uber Air flights will take to the skies — Dallas and Los Angeles were the first two cities named.
While Uber launched its Elevate programme in 2016, last year the ride-sharing company announced its intention to launch flight demonstrations of UberAir in Dallas-Fort Worth/Frisco Texas and Los Angeles in 2020 with commercially trips starting as early as 2023. At the Uber Elevate Asia-Pacific summit in Tokyo on Thursday, the ride-sharing company reiterated that it was looking beyond cars to solve the problem of congestion in the fast-growing urban areas across the world.
Nikhil Goel, Uber’s head of product for aviation, said congestion in Indian cities adds up to $22 billion every year. He said Uber will be meeting policy makers in Delhi in the coming weeks to take this forward.
Uber Chief Operating Officer Barney Harford said his company was no longer about just cars but would be an urban mobility player in every sense of the term. “Uber is looking to the sky to unlock new opportunities for urban residents,” he said, calling it the boldest step to radically improve urban transportation.
“Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru are some of the most congested cities in the world, where travelling even a few kilometres can take over an hour. Uber Air offers tremendous potential to help create a transportation option that goes over congestion, instead of adding to it,” the company said in a statement.
Uber is working with multiple partners to help with technology for developing aircraft and infrastructure for trips within a range of 15 and 100 km. “We are looking at an entirely new type of aircraft that is electric, takes off and lands vertically and flies at speeds of up to 300 km per hour. These new aircraft will offer incredible speed and high reliability,” Hardford said. These aircraft will maintain a cruising altitude of 1000-2000 feet and be able to do trips of up to 60 miles on a single charge. He said the price of these aerial trips will go below car ownership and will thus be a mass product in every way.
Uber Elevate also announced plans to experiment with drone delivery for Uber Eats, and demonstrated how potential Uber Air routes in Asia Pacific cities could benefit local transportation systems.
“We are proud to host the first ever Uber Elevate Asia Pacific Expo. We are announcing a shortlist of five countries where Uber Air can immediately transform transportation and take our technology to new heights,” said Eric Allison, Head of Uber Aviation Programmes.
Tokyo is exploring air mobility as a solution to be made available in time for the Olympics in 2020. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said she looks forward to seeing flying cars in the urban sky. Other government officials confirmed that they were looking to see a roadmap by end of the year so that the countries take the lead in this state of the art technology.
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