Watch out Larry page, Uber is coming for Zee Aero. We had published a report which first appeared on Bloomberg on two Silicon Valley flying car projects financed by Alphabet’s (Google) Larry Page. Today thought they reported again that Uber might be interested in such a technology for the future. Now the idea of a flying car comes from the thinking that electric cars could someday take off and land like helicopters in a quieter way. After all if such cars were to take off like an actual airplane it would defeat the purpose of flying over a difficult terrains or traffic for that matter hence the vertical takeoff and landing concept of such an idea were to see the light of day.
Bloomberg reports that Uber has hired Mark Moore who is an advanced aircraft engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center to oversee the project as director of engineering for aviation at Uber. Moore himself who published a paper in 2010 on the idea of vehicles taking off and landing vertically says “I can’t think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) market real”. This positions Uber for the future of transport really even as the company is now expanding its self-driving car scheme beyond Pittsburgh where it first launched in spite of legal challenges in cities like San Francisco.
But it looks the ride hailing company doesn’t want to rush into this and according to a paper published last year by the company, they said “we also believe that in the long-term, VTOLs will be an affordable form of daily transportation for the masses, even less expensive than owning a car and …..rather than manufacture VTOL hardware ourselves, we instead look to collaborate with vehicle developers, regulators, city and national governments, and other community stakeholders, while bringing to the table a very fertile market of excited consumers and a clear vehicle and operations use case.” This underscores Uber’s business plan as a company that leverages on successes of potential partners to deliver a new business line. Well by now you know they don’t own the cars, they just built the app so that we can connect with cars easily, they are partnering with the likes of Volvo to deliver self- driving car and they have now made us understand that their flying car concept won’t be any different.
One reason for Uber’s on foot in the water could also be something Mr. Moore highlighted and that’s regulation. It might take a while for authorities to sanction such a concept and this is not like drones if you’re wondering. There’s less risk in having commercial drones fly around than having cars conveying humans flying around in the society. The other one is the cost of acquiring the parts for such a car among other technical challenges.
The concept sounds amazing but before you jump up, the report also notes that such flying vehicles might have a flight range of 50 to 100 miles but that’s something if you’re trying to get somewhere fast and that’s a time so this could be carried severally over one commute assuming the battery life is capable of doing this. The other assumption I can imagine here is that there might be need for special lanes that will be controlled by air and road authorities for effectiveness and safety. If you’re in the airspace office, this certainly adds to your work or better put, it could create more jobs eventually.
Uber is currently valued at $66b and has a network of about 55 million riders worldwide. The flying car arm of Uber will be called Uber Elevate.