From its establishment to today, Uber has always had one aim “tap a button, get a ride”. For seven years Uber has been in Australia, getting people from point A to point B by car, but soon they’re adding another mode of transit to the list: flight. By 2023 they plan on having their aerial ridesharing service ‘Uber Air’ up and running.
The vision of the companies expansion is to give customers the option of affordable flight experiences for every-day uses. Uber believes that this new service is an innovative solution to the congested roadways seen in many large cities – especially for those who commute to work. Testing will begin in select cities such as Melbourne as early as 2020, providing flights between cities and suburbs, as well as within the cities themselves.
Utilising a new, electric alternative to helicopters, Uber wants to offer hub-to-hub mobility. Employing this technology will allow commuters to travel to their destination without adhering to a specific path or having their ride delayed due to road accidents or congestion. With this flexibility and convenience, Uber is hoping to grant its customers and society more freedom moving towards the future.
This freedom may come in the form of anywhere from reducing car ownership and ultimately congestion, to using data gathered by their app to help the government plan new transport routes for the future.
In 2016 Uber investigated the question: can Uber be taken to the air?
They published their findings in a whitepaper. This first-principles analysis diagnoses and classifies the crucial barriers present for Uber Air. Affordability and traffic control are the main focal points of this inquiry as well as exploring the optimum approach Uber should take with their partners to remove these barriers.
Based on this initial inquiry Uber created Elevate, a dedicated team tasked with launching Uber Air. Working with Federal and Local policymakers, Elevate is determining an airspace management system, specialised batteries, and the infrastructure required for this tremendous undertaking.
This innovative company plans to use mobility and traffic pattern data gathered through rides on their app to generate data-powered networks. By utilising this data Uber hopes to intelligently and accurately model demand and supply in these urban areas to implement sky-ports in the key locations. Additionally, this team has already demonstrated a reference model of the type of aircraft they plan on employing (titled eCRM) to industry partners.
Uber Air is currently working with five of the world’s most cutting-edge aircraft manufactures, such as Karen Aircraft and Aurora – a boing company. Each of these companies is independently developing small electrical Vertical Take Off and Landing crafts (eVTOLs) specifically designed for ridesharing.
The main difference between eVTOLs and helicopters is the power source. eVTOLs are completely electric, this allows them to have a minimal impact on the environment and also reduces noise. By using these ingenious vehicles, Uber is putting a focus on safety, energy efficiency, and creating rapid, reliable transportation.
Another state-of-the-art implementation within eVTOLs is Distributed Electric Propulsion (DEP), invented by Uber’s own Mark Moore. Moore conceptualised DEP during his 32 years at NASA and has now joined the team as the Director of Vehicle Engineering. DEP allows the optimisation of a wide range of important factors such as efficiency, hover power, and vehicle control, to allow for a smooth and easy flight.
Through contemporary cutting-edge technology as well as by collaborating with impressive industry partners and policymakers, Uber Air may be coming to you very soon. Such a reprieve from congested highways would be well received from commuters and has already garnered much interest from the public. As the company continues to reinvent and reimagine itself, Uber is still looking towards servicing all those in Australia who want to get from point A to point B with a push of a button.
By McKenzie Downey