Last year Uber announced that Melbourne would be the first Australian city to to get the company’s flying ride sharing service – Uber Air.
We now know that the first launch partner is Hyundai, which has a full scale concept vehicle on display at CES. We haven’t laid our eyes on it just yet, but the renders sure have a 1940s retrofuturism vibe.
The car manufacturer is said to be creating and deploying vehicles, where Uber will provide support. This will include customer interfaces across the ride share network, airspace support services and connections to ground transportation.
It is currently unclear how takeoff and landing infrastructure will practically work, but both companies will work collaboratively to iron out these significant details.
Last we heard, Uber was partnering with Macquarie, Telstra and Scentre Group (owner and operator of Westfield) as well as Melbourne airport in order to build out this urban aviation network.
They have also worked together to develop the Personal air Vehicle (PAV) that is on display at CES – the model S-A1.
Aesthetically it looks like a cross between a rocket and WWII bombers. Design-wise, it has been optimised for vertical take off and landing, thus negating the need for a runway.
It can apparently get to a cruising speed of 290 km/h and cruising altitude between 1,000 and 2,000 feet.
The S-A1 is also fully electric, using electric propulsion to power multiple rotors and propellers to both decrease a single point of failure and decrease noise pollution. The vehicle is said to take 5 – 7 minutes to recharge and there are plans for them to eventually be driven autonomously.
Test flights for Uber Air were earmarked for this year, with commercial rides said to begin in 2023. While Melbourne is still the first city outside of the U.S. to get the service, it’s unclear of whether this timeline will be still be accurate.
“We’re just over a week into 2020, and while this Hyundai partnership presents another significant advancement in our Uber Air journey, our approach has always been to be thorough, and to collaborate closely with our local stakeholders and communities,” said head of Uber Elevate, Australia, Natalie Malligan in a statement.
“We are focused not just on working towards our short-term launch goals, but also in laying the necessary foundations for a network that can scale sustainably in the longer-term.”
The author travelled to CES 2020 on a scholarship from the Consumer Technology Association.