Though we’re certainly excited about the arrival of driverless cars, Hyperloop and Elon Musk’s underground tunnel system, we can’t help but think “but these aren’t the flying cars that Blade Runner promised.” Well, Angelenos, a flying transit service is coming, and soon.
Uber is launching an automated flying taxi service dubbed uberAIR that will arrive in Los Angeles in 2020.
The ride-hailing company’s chief product officer Jeff Holden announced the news at the Web Conference in Lisbon. Uber will partner with aircraft manufacturers including Aurora Flight Sciences, Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, Mooney and Bell Helicopter to craft all-electric vehicles capable of both vertical takeoff and more traditional cruising. In addition, they’ve signed an agreement with NASA to sort out the air traffic management aspect.
The aircraft, which will be piloted when the service first launches but fully automated later on, will be capable of flying between 150 to 200mph and up to 60 miles on a single charge. But Holden envisions a typical flight to be closer to 25 miles—a couple of miles beyond the trip from LAX to Downtown—which would allow the vehicles to be fully recharged after only three to four minutes on the landing pad.
If all that sounds expensive, well, it’s not, if Holden is to be believed—he expects the sheer volume of aircraft being produced coupled with their low cost of maintenance and the service’s projected popularity to keep prices affordable. Though Holden didn’t release any specific numbers, he said the target is for uberAIR to be “less expensive than driving your own car,” with rideshare rates just after launch “comparable to UberX prices.”