Ride-hailing platform Uber has announced that it will test its flying taxis in Melbourne, Australia starting in 2020.

Uber Air will also be tested in Dallas and Los Angeles in the company’s home market in an effort to “help alleviate transport congestion on the ground”. According to the firm, congestion costs Australia $16.5 billion annually, which could increase to $30 billion by 2030.

The firm plans to open a network of “skyports” across target cities, which will act as access hubs for customers wishing to use the service. It says that through infrastructure and scale, Uber Air will eventually be as cheap as a typical ground ride of the same distance.

Flights will be operated by Electric Vertical Take Off and Landing (eVTOL) vehicles. Uber is working with two aircraft manufacturers – Embraer and Pipistrel Aircraft – along with Nasa and the US Army to develop its flying taxis, with plans to open a laboratory in Paris.

Following a test period, Uber aims to launch commercial flying taxis in 2023.

According to Eric Allison, global head of the company’s aviation division Uber Elevate, a 19km journey from Melbourne’s CBD to the airport in an air taxi would take around ten minutes compared to up to an hour in a car.

Uber is also working with Australian companies Macquarie Capital, Telstra and Scentre Group, which owns and operates Westfield in Australia and New Zealand, as well as existing partners such as Melbourne airport to develop the infrastructure and telecommunications needed to create the “urban aviation network”.

Susan Anderson, regional general manager for Australia, New Zealand and North Asia, commented: “Since we entered the market in 2012, Australians have embraced Uber wholeheartedly. Today, over 3.8 million Aussies regularly use Uber as a reliable way to get from A to B, and governments across the country have recognised the important role ridesharing plays in the future of transport for our cities… This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the perfect third launch city for Uber Air. We will see other Australian cities following soon after.”

Lorie Argus, chief of parking and ground access at Melbourne airport, said: “As the gateway to Melbourne for tens of millions of travellers each year, we can see fantastic potential for Uber Air in the future. We look forward to continuing this exciting conversation, and working with government, regulators and our local communities to make this happen.”

Flying taxis are one of a number of future mobility initiatives Uber is working on, with Toyota partnering with the company on the development and testing of driverless cars.


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