Could flying around in an aircraft one day be cheaper than owning your own car? Uber thinks so.
The ride-sharing giant says it hopes for Uber Elevate, its new “on demand air transportation” system — basically flying cars — to get to the point where it becomes cheaper than car ownership.
Uber Elevate will use vertical take-off and landing aircrafts, or VTOLs, to deliver commuters to their destination much in the same way a regular Uber does.
Except you know — in the air.
The company is aiming for the service to be real and mainstream in the next ten years.
“What’s important to Uber is that this is an affordable situation,” Nikhil Goel, Director of Product, Uber Elevate and Advanced Programs, told Mashable.
“Until we get to the point where flying to work is cheaper than owning a car, it doesn’t become a true replacement solution for everybody. My goal is ultimately to make sure that it is cheaper than car ownership.”
But how does Uber plan to keep costs low?
Goel reveals that Elevate will work in a similar way to Uber Pool, where commuters share a ride with others heading toward the same direction.
“In order to make the commute affordable, the vehicle is going to have to be full…so you’ll almost always have four passengers,” he says.
The idea is for all the passengers to meet at a nearby “pod” where the VTOL will be parked. They would then fly to the pod closest to all of their destinations, and have self-driving cars take them to their specific individual locations.
The VTOLs will be driven by a pilot to begin with, but will eventually become fully autonomous.
If Elevate does eventually gain traction, it will also lead to higher production of VTOLs, which may lead to economies of scale. The company hopes to eventually roll out around 1,200 VTOLS in ten years’ time.
However, before any of this can be done, Uber still has to jump through a number of regulatory hoops.
If everything falls into place, flying cars can perhaps one day be the “new normal.”
The VTOLs will have to comply with regulations from aviation industries as well as deal with regulations in each specific country.
“I think the regulations are going to be a long process, but…we hope to be very transparent and we hope governments will be receptive to having a conversation.”
“In ten years from now we’ll all be sitting around talking about [flying cars] like its no big deal — and that will become the new normal,” he says.
Dubai announced in February that self-flying taxis would start transporting people across the city from July.
The city is using the Ehang 184, an autonomous drone which can take one person on a journey up to 23 minutes long.