Uber Names Five Countries Being Considered for Flying Car Taxi Service Launch

Uber just announced the five countries it’s looking at to choose the third launch city for its flying taxi service in 2023.

byMarco Margaritoff|
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Uber wants to bring flying taxis through its Uber Air service to Los Angeles and Dallas Fort-Worth, with demonstration flights scheduled for 2020 and an operational aerial taxi service by 2023. According to The Verge, while Dubai was originally intended to serve as Uber’s first international flying taxi launch city, that no longer seems to be the case. The company announced on Thursday that a yet unspecified city in one of the following countries will do so instead: Japan, France, Brazil, Australia, or India.

Uber says it’s going to launch the flying taxi service in the yet unnamed city in the next five years. While some remain skeptical the ride-sharing company can feasibly reach this goal and stick to its own timeline, Uber has made some significant strides in the past few years. From partnering with NASA to focus on unmanned traffic management systems for passengers drones to joining a 21-member flying car coalition in Japan that includes Airbus, Boeing and Toyota, Uber itself is certain it can stick the landing.

In practical terms, the most significant obstacles in Uber’s way are largely rooted in technology, politics and public trust. Lightweight batteries powerful yet light enough to reliably facilitate secure passenger drone trips is one issue. Having regional legislation in place that even allows for the widespread implementation of this futuristic concept is another. Ultimately, however, without trusting customers who are willing to take a chance and get into a driverless passenger drone for the first time, the service is a failure before it even takes off. 

In case Uber does manage to pull this off, here's what the service would theoretically look like, in action.

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As for Uber’s selection criteria in finalizing its choice for the third international city, a few non-negotiable elements are required. These include a metropolitan population of over 2 million people, disparate hubs of populated areas, the region’s proven willingness to support carpooling services and an airport at least one hour away from the city center. Without these factors in place, it’s unlikely Uber will even consider choosing a city as its next regional partner. The five countries listed above all have varying appeal, according to Uber, as each region has a distinct advantage regarding these criteria.

Japan, for example, is one of the most advanced countries in the world regarding public transportation and technological innovation. India has serious infrastructural congestion problems, with passenger drone implementation providing an incredible opportunity to study the aftereffects. Australia is reportedly already quite willing to use aerial transportation. France, of course, is home to Uber’s new tech hub currently in development. For Brazil, it’s the commonplace use of helicopter transportation that’s alluring to Uber which, coincidentally, already allows users to hail those vehicles through its app.

Regarding the vertical takeoff and landing technology inherent in Uber Air’s business plan, we’re seeing several companies take notable interest in the capability, as it allows vehicles to ascend and descend from any platform wide and stable enough to hold it. From Workhorse’s SureFly passenger drone to the ex-Google boss Larry Page's Kitty Hawk, the commercial passenger UAV industry is steadily growing. Boeing recently said it anticipates electric passenger drones to be commonplace within the next decade. Uber is certainly responsible for pushing the momentum forward here, alongside all the competition, in turning that prophecy into a self-fulfilling one. 

As it stands, Uber is consulting with stakeholders in each of the five countries, weighing the pros and cons of each region before making a decision. That process is expected to take less than six months, so we’ll get to envision Uber Air’s demonstration flights with a more informed, clear picture of the passenger drones’ backdrop. Stay tuned.

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