Uber Is Researching Flying Taxis

Ride-hailing company wants to give people rides in the sky.

byWill Sabel Courtney|
Uber Is Researching Flying Taxis


Well, this is an interesting turn. In order to better handle the transportation needs of urban dwellers, Uber is looking into vehicles that could take off and land vertically. In other words...flying taxis.

In a discussion at the Nantucket Conference yesterday, Uber products head Jeff Holden said the company has been looking into offering short flights around cities “so we can someday offer our customers as many options as possible to move around,” according to Recode. The Uber product boss did not specify whether the vertical-takeoff-and-landing craft, or VTOL, would be piloted like traditional aircraft, remote-controlled, fully autonomous, or some combination thereof, like Airvinci's helicopter drones (pictured above).

Holden claimed the technology could be available within a decade; that said, clearing the legislative and logistic hurdles involved with creating a network of flying taxis in a dense urban environment...especially considering the millions of drones that may clog the nation’s airspace by then, delivering burritos and pizza to hungry, lazy consumers.

Uber has previously dabbled in flight, offering on-demand helicopter services in markets like Sao Paolo, Brazil. Those efforts, however, were more of a marketing endeavor than an actual attempt to provide mass-market transportation, according to Holden.

Holden said he sees the urban flight operations as a far more awesome form of UberPool, in which users could share flying vehicles as they hop between rooftops. In time, he said, VTOL transportation could play a key role in Uber’s goal of ultimately eliminating private car ownership. (Did it just get chilly in here? We just started shivering.)

While most of Uber’s current operations are software-based, with the app simply connecting drivers and riders, the ride-hailing company has been pushing into the hardware side of the industry with increasing vigor. Earlier this month, the company deployed its inaugural fleet of self-driving cars out of its laboratory in Pittsburgh—an effort that Holden has also been deeply involved with.