Come 2023, passengers used to up to hour-long commutes from Melbourne’s central business district to its airport could have the option of flying there in just 10 minutes.
Uber has chosen the city as its third official pilot city for its “aerial ridesharing” programme Uber Air, with test flights scheduled to begin in 2020 and commercial operations in 2023.
The programme will “open up urban air mobility and help alleviate traffic congestion on the ground using shared air taxis, also known as electronic vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft”, the company said. It will allow passengers to travel across a number of landing pads called “Skyports” for flying cars on the tops of buildings, for the same price as an UberX trip over the same distance.
According to Uber, congestion now costs Australia $16.5 billion annually, and this amount is forecasted to rise to about $30 billion by 2030.
Eric Allison, the global head of Uber Elevate, said the heavy reliance on private car ownership would not be sustainable with the growth of major cities, and Uber Air can help reduce road congestion.
“The 19 kilometre journey from the CBD to Melbourne airport can take anywhere from 25 minutes to around an hour by car in peak hour but with Uber Air this will take around 10 minutes,” he said.
Melbourne is the first city outside the US to be chosen for the Uber Air programme. The other two cities that currently have the programme are Dallas and Los Angeles.
“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology,” said Susan Anderson, regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia.
“This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the perfect third launch city for Uber Air. We will see other Australian cities following soon after.”
Uber revealed the air taxi cabin design for this future Uber Air service during the Uber Elevate Summit 2019 held in Washington, DC. Designed in partnership with cabin interior supplier Safran Cabin, the cabin can accommodate four passengers. The vehicle mockup is currently being displayed at the Summit during June 11 and 12.
“Through the process with Uber, we had six full-scale mockups, with multiple iterations in each one, looking at the seats, liners, and window positioning,” said Scott Savian, EVP of Safran Cabin.
“We don’t want any excess weight or cost, but the mission also requires safety, a comfortable user experience, and a seamlessness of all the user interactions. So while the cabin may be minimal in some ways, it’s absolutely purpose built to the mission.”