Uber plans to launch electric flying taxis by 2020

Uber plans to demo its first "flying cars" in USA cities by 2020, the ride-hailing company said Tuesday, moving one step closer to a future where workers take to the air for their daily commutes.

Though it carries the potential to cut down on commute times and reduce transit fatalities, it's clear from Uber's own admitted concerns that Elevate is a massive undertaking. Uber also gained partnerships with aviation companies to develop and deliver a flying vehicle.

Jeff Holden, Uber's chief product officer, hates the phrase "flying cars".

The region was selected as one of two metropolitan areas in the world, joining Dubai, to explore Uber's Elevate initiative, its latest transportation project that will airlift passengers via vertical take-off and landing aircraft the company is now developing. What Uber brings to the party is its 60 million riders, who one day could see an option to hit "Uber Elevate" in their ride-hailing app to call a drone.

Engineering a flying auto is easier today than its every been, thanks to considerable advancements in lightweight materials, electrical power generation and computer-assisted design that doesn't risk lives with live trials.

Of course, cost could drive down the use of flying taxis.

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The two-passenger aircraft uses eight horizontally-oriented propellers to take off and land vertically, while a vertical prop in the rear allows it to switch to faster and more efficient fixed-wing flight once airborne. The company designs, develops, manufactures and markets aircraft and systems, providing customer support and services. Uber has partnered with ChargePoint to develop VTOL charging solutions throughout the network. Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter is one of the partners working to develop the aircraft.

Uber has transformed hundreds of cities around the world with its cheap, rapid taxi service - and the next step will be to conquer the skies. That's comparable to the costs of the company's existing UberX vehicle service for short distances.

"Several areas still need further research and development", he wrote, "particularly the operational aspects of making sure the automation that will "fly" the autonomous aircraft is safe, and how the automation will interact with the air traffic control system".

The Verge was in attendance at the conference and relayed that Dallas and Dubai will be the first test-cities for Uber Elevate.

Sharing flying vehicles solves a lot of problems that plague urban areas, Uber argues. Larry Page, co-founder of Google, has personally invested in two secretive flying auto companies, ZeeAero and Kitty Hawk.

  • Rita Burton