Uber says it’s moving forward with a plan straight out of The Jetsons.
At its 2nd annual Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, the company is showing off what it says will be the transportation mode of the future: on demand air transport.
Its plan is to have a sky full of small drone-like taxis shuttling customers around cities at far faster speeds than driving – all with the request of a ride in the Uber app.
Utilizing the knowledge of NASA engineers, Uber claims it can get the program up and running quickly. Despite recent hiccups with its autonomous vehicles, Uber says it can take flight in 2020.
“What 2020 is for is demonstrator flights. What that means is the vehicles will be safe to operate in urban environments,” Nikhil Goel, head of product for Uber Air, told ABC News. “They’ll be experimental vehicles but they’ll be safe.”
By 2023 Uber hopes to allow customers to request rides. When the Olympics come to Los Angeles in 2028, Uber expects to have hundreds, if not thousands, of its aircraft in the skies.
Using its knowledge of rider habits and current rider activity, Uber believes it can create an air taxi service that, until now, has been something in sci-fi movies: buzzing drone-like vehicles flying all over the skies. Big aerospace companies including Bell, Embraer, Boeing and others are working on prototype designs.
Uber envisions a world in which flying Uber Air would be as cheap as driving in your vehicle – about 44 cents per mile. By setting up a system of skyports around cities – starting with LA and Dallas – Uber believes it can create a network of flights that could shuttle riders around safely. Through automation and mass production Uber says the cost of doing business will come way down.
Uber believes it could have 10 times as many flights in the air over a single city than the FAA currently deals with nationwide on a daily basis.
“Push a button, get a flight,” Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden told the crowd of about 700 attendees.
“Our goal is to be a reliable service,” added Goel. “We can’t just shut down anytime it rains or it’s cloudy.”
Uber and NASA have signed agreements to work together while aircraft manufacturers work on the vehicles.