Uber Air: Looking at the Future of Commuting

Uber Air: Looking at the Future of Commuting

Uber Views Flying Cars as the Future of Urban CommutingTime spent in traffic is just as unpleasant for commuters in Minneapolis and St. Paul as lengthy train or bus rides are for residents of Delhi. Residents of sprawling Dallas and Los Angeles complain about the distances—and the time—it takes to get from one suburb to another, or from the airport to the urban core. Globally, from Sydney, Australia to Paris, from Hong Kong to Delhi, business travelers yearn for faster, more efficients ways to get to work.

Now, the company that pioneered alternative transportation options, Uber, cites the topic of "commute pain" as a key component of the latest innovative transportation solution on its drawing boards.

Urban Air Mobility

Sprawling Big D and LA are two launch cities that have been selected for UberAIR, a flying ride service that the company hopes will revolutionize commuting, much like Light Rail has done for Minneapolis. UberAIR is currently looking for expressions of interest from a third location, an international city with a demonstrated need to "improve urban mobility."

Uber's goal is to introduce its unique version of "on-demand aviation" in three select cities as early as 2020, in an effort to not only slash commute times and reduce street-level congestion but also to revolutionize the way business is conducted in cities across the globe. The company envisions rooftop heliports and freestanding skyports for electric "flying cars," modern depots that will accommodate Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) craft, and get people where they need to be quickly and efficiently.

The VTOL aircraft envisioned by Uber are totally electric, non-polluting and efficient, but cities must be willing to commit to carbon footprint reduction and grid-modernizing technology. Requirements are stringent and varied; interested cities must submit statements of interest to Uber by a July 1, 2018 deadline.

On-Demand and Affordable

The plan encompasses a lot more than just an airborne ride-sharing opportunity or an on-call flight service. It is viewed as a new aesthetic for urban transportation, and envisioned as a supplement to other forms of transportation, including public transit, ride-sharing, bikeshare options and urban pedestrian traffic.

Uber's head of design for advanced programs and aviation, John Badalamenti, notes that the launchpads and landing site designs may seem like they belong to a far-off future, but the reality is "closer than you think," and it's time to begin to seriously consider the options.

A recent design competition produced futuristic architectural renderings that signal a first step into a reality that today is only seen on the big screen. Design specifications required that the skyports meet the anticipated need to transport a minimum of 4,000 passengers per hour while also conforming to environmental and noise standards, all within a compact physical footprint of no more than three acres.

In addition, each transportation hub would integrate electrical recharging capability for the flying cars, be visually attractive as well as efficient, and have only minimal impact on surrounding communities and existing businesses. While the six winning designs vary substantially in form and details, each relies on what was termed "retro-futuristic," tapping into ideas from the past as well as visions of what the future might be for transportation that isn't tied to the ground.

Pros and Cons

Even Uber, as committed as the company seems to be in pursuit of a VTOL solution, admits there are many barriers still to be addressed. Among the more critical are certification procedures and vehicle efficiency, battery technology and reliability, air traffic control and safety, logistics, pilot training, and cost/affordability.

But the company also notes that NASA and the FAA recently surveyed the topic of on-demand mobility and a VTOL commuter network in conjunction with other interested agencies, organizations, universities and investors, and arrived at virtually the same list of challenges to be overcome.

At this point, Uber has taken the initiative to spearhead exploration of a future urban transportation system that is totally unique, and to facilitate the discussion about its implementation. The company admits it's an ambitious undertaking, but it also affirms that it's a fascinating topic.

Post a Comment