"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."
Ride-sharing service Uber released a 97-page white paper today that describes a network of "on-demand, fully electric aircraft that take off and land vertically." The Vertical Takeoff and Landing aircraft are referred to as VTOLs. Uber's proprietary network of VTOL service will be called "Elevate."
From Wired News:
The San Francisco-based transportation goliath has no intention of designing or building these things, instead hoping to catalyze the market, bringing together private and government parties to solve a pile of technical, regulatory, and infrastructural problems, from battery density to aircraft certification to air traffic control. "If you can do all those things," says Jeff Holden, Uber's product chief, "you've got the potential for a new transportation method."
Once the pieces are in place, Uber can do what it's already done with cars: enrolling pilots, connecting them with its massive customer base, advising on routes, and collecting its share of the fare.
"We're just turning the corner now to make that possible," Holden says. "Our intent is to help the industry get there faster."
In today's document, Uber is making the argument that on-demand personal aviation will be affordable and practical within the next decade, if regulators, communities and manufacturers can all agree on how to do it.
Ultimately, using VTOLs for transport could be less expensive than owning a car, Uber predicted.
Such on-demand VTOL aircraft would be "optionally piloted," Uber said, where autonomous technology takes over the main workload and the pilot is relied on for situational awareness. Eventually, the aircraft will likely be fully automated, Uber said.
Hurdles include battery technology. Batteries must come down in cost and charge faster, become more powerful and have longer lifecycles.
Over the next 6 months, Uber says it will begin reaching out to stakeholders to start exploring urban air transportation. The company plans to host a summit in early 2017 where ideas can be shared.
Read the announcement from Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden at Medium: "Fast-Forwarding to a Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation."
Download the full white paper at uber.com/elevate/whitepaper.