Uber has unveiled its “flying car” concept aircraft at its second annual Uber Elevate Summit, which showcases prototypes for its fleet of airborne taxis.
The flying cars, which the company hopes to introduce to riders in two to five years, will conduct vertical takeoffs and landings from skyports, air stations on rooftops or the ground. Ultimately, company officials say these skyports will be equipped to handle 200 takeoffs and landings an hour, or one every 24 seconds. At first, the flying cars will be piloted, but the company aims for the aircraft to fly autonomously.
The prototypes look more like drones than helicopters, with four rotors on wings. Company officials say that will make them safer than choppers, which operate on one rotor. They’ll fly 1,000 to 2,000 feet above ground and will be quieter than a helicopter, producing half the noise of a truck driving past a house.
Uber, which is partnering with NASA on developing the new UberAIR service, faces competition in the skies. Kitty Hawk, an autonomous flying taxi company backed by Alphabet’s Larry Page, unveiled its latest commercial plane called Cora in March. The company is working with the government of New Zealand to commercialize its air taxis. Another competitor, Airbus, performed the first successful flight of its autonomous flying car in February.
Uber says passengers will initially pay the same as an Uber Black over the same distance, but once the service has enough passengers, the cost will decrease to Uber X rates for the same trip. The company plans to roll out UberAIR in Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles in 2023, with testing in those cities beginning in 2020.