Uber has revealed a prototype for an electric flying taxi ahead of its Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, CBS News first reported.
The company plans to start tests for an air transportation service, Uber Air, in 2020 in Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Dubai. By 2028, Uber hopes to launch the service, which would transport passengers between rooftop landing pads the company refers to as “skyports.” The skyports would be able to see 200 takeoffs and landings each hour, company officials told CNBC.
“We think cities are going to go vertical in terms of transportation, and we want to make that a reality,” CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CBS This Morning.
The electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle prototype unveiled on Tuesday resembles a helicopter with five propellers distributed around the aircraft. Four of the propellers are dedicated to take-off and landing and have two rotors placed on top of each other. The other propeller allows the eVTOL to move forward.
In a press release, Uber said the number and placement of rotors will make eVTOL vehicles safer and quieter than traditional helicopters. The aircraft will have a cruising speed between 150 mph to 200 mph, a range of 60 miles per charge, and the ability to recharge in around five minutes during peak hours.
While the aircraft will feature human pilots at first, Uber hopes to eventually make them autonomous. Each eVTOL vehicle will carry up to four passengers.
Unlike traditional helicopters, Uber plans to make its aircraft “affordable for normal people,” CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CBS This Morning.
“One of the key tenets of this technology is for us to have four riders in each vehicle so that, essentially, the cost per ride goes down,” he said.
Uber is partnering with NASA to develop a traffic control system it will use to coordinate the service. It faces competition from other companies that are working to launch flying taxi services like Airbus, Boeing, and Kitty Hawk, which is backed by Google founder Larry Page.
Khosrowshahi became the CEO of Uber in August after his predecessor, Travis Kalanick, resigned. Since then, Khosrowshahi has attempted to rehabilitate the company’s image after a series of scandals involving the company’s workplace culture, treatment of drivers, and relationships with cities.
In April, a self-driving Uber vehicle hit and killed a pedestrian, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, in Tempe, Arizona. Khosrowshahi told CBS This Morning the software that determines how its self-driving vehicles interpret and react to their surroundings may bear some responsibility for the accident, though the company is waiting for the National Transportation Safety Board to finish its investigation into the crash before drawing further conclusions.
Since the accident, Uber has stopped testing autonomous vehicles on public roads, but Khosrowshahi told CBS This Morning that the company will eventually resume testing after he has finished evaluating the program.
“What I’m doing is a top-to-bottom audit of our procedures, training, software, hardware, what our practices are,” he said. “We want to be safe when we get back on the road.”
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