Uber is all for VTOL. The company held its first ever Elevate conference today, that discussed the future of electric vertical take off and landing vehicles. The conference also saw the company announce a slew of new partnerships that will focus on two specific markets, with respect to testing and propagating Uber’s VTOL ambitions.
Uber has announced partnerships with companies like Aurora Flight Sciences, Embraer, Bell Helicopter, Pistrel Aircraft, Mooney and ChargePoint. These partnerships are initially aimed towards Dallas and Dubai, with the likelihood of expanding to other markets assuming that the pilot programs prove to be successful. These partners will help Uber in setting up its Elevate Network — yes, a network of on-demand, flying taxis.
Uber said that it wanted to make this dream a reality by the 2020 World Expo that is slated to take place in Dubai. The company wants to use the Expo to launch its flying taxis with a bang. Similarly, Dallas in the United States will also host an event witnessing the launch of the company’s Elevate Network somewhere about the same time.
The choice of locations is pretty obvious. Flying cars are a major disruption and as such, the place hosting their debut must be totally friendly and receptive. After all, how these vehicles perform in their maiden run, will have a huge bearing upon the kind of reception they get once Uber starts expanding its network to other cities, states and countries.
Dubai has already proved itself to be a huge proponent of emerging transport technologies. Whether it is the Hyperloop or flying cars, Dubai has shown that it is ready to take them all in its stride. Funding, regulatory approvals, support of the government, local technical expertise, potential customers able and willing to shell out the undoubtedly higher prices, are all readily available in the city.
Similarly, Dallas has exhibited ample interest in hosting Uber’s flying cars as well. Dallas and Fort Worth’s mayors are both ardent supporters and have been collaborating with Uber, in a bid to make their area the first to host on-demand flying taxis. Meanwhile, the roles Uber’s new partners will be playing in the enterprise are as follows:
- ChargePoint will create a VTOL charger designed specifically for use with Uber’s VTOL network.
- Hillwood will create ‘vertiports’ for VTOL pick-ups and drop-offs in Dallas.
- Embraer, Bell Helicopter and Aurora Flight Science will work towards large scale manufacturing of VTOL crafts.
If Uber succeeds in its mission of launching a pilot program in Dallas and Dubai by 2020, it will be nothing short of a coup. And if that happens, we could actually expect flying taxis to become a common sight by the next decade.