Uber announced plans to launch trials of its flying cars next year in Melbourne, Australia. The city is the third flagged by Uber for the new taxi service, while it is working to create “first world’s aerial rideshare network.”
One of the most populous cities in Australia is set to become the first international market for Uber Air, beating out cities in Brazil, France, India, and Japan to join Dallas and Los Angeles, as a pilot location for the project. The test flights are scheduled for 2020, while commercial operations are set to kick off in 2023.
“We want to make it possible for people to push a button and get a flight,” Eric Allison, the global head of Uber Elevate, said on Wednesday.
The aerial route is set to cover 19 kilometers from the Central Business District (CBD) to Melbourne Airport and take around 10 minutes, instead of the usual journey that takes from 25 minutes to around an hour. The flight is reportedly expected to cost less than $90, about the same as a trip in a luxury Uber Black car.
The aerial taxi service is set to be launched even sooner than the long-awaited rail link to Melbourne Airport. The rail line will link the air hub to the Melbourne CBD by 2031.
The Uber Air project states that riders can take a special vertical takeoff and landing aircraft (VTOL) which can travel between ‘skyports’ capable of handling up to 1,000 landings per hour. The company is working with five aircraft manufacturers, including Boeing, to design the aircraft for the future rides.
However, Uber may face some hurdles to get the initiative off the ground, some analysts believe. For example, lack of proper regulations, obtaining safety certification, and approval for air routes, as well as building the infrastructure for the project.
“I’d hate to see us be in a position where it’s a repeat of Uber ground vehicles where governments aren’t adequately prepared for this technology, and aren’t proactively working with these companies to look at how to make sure that we can benefit from this technology, and not end up in a situation where it’s absolute chaos,” Jake Whitehead, a University of Queensland researcher, said.