Uber unveils its self-flying taxi: Firm shows off the first look at prototypes for Uber Air craft that could hit city skies as soon as 2020 (and cost the same as hailing a cab)

  • Uber showed off full size and miniature design models for its Uber Air vertical takeoff and landing air taxis
  • The firm plans to launch its airborne ride service in 2020 with pilots, then become autonomous in 5-10 years
  • Each craft will be electric and rely on multiple propellers for a quiet takeoff from rooftops in urban areas
  • Passengers will be able to hair rides using the mobile app, and must book 60 minute before their trip
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Uber is stepping up its bid to create one of the first urban flying taxi networks.

The firm unveiled its Uber Air design models for the first time at the Elevate Summit in Los Angeles today, revealing a look at the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft that could be ferrying passengers above congested cities in just two years.

A full-size model and miniature design prototype showed off to CBS News show how the electric flying taxis could fit up to four riders per vehicle, at first for piloted flights before ultimately becoming fully autonomous.

Uber plans to launch the air-taxi service in 2020, with its self-flying craft to follow in the next five to 10 years. 

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A full-size model (shown) and miniature design prototype showed off to CBS News show how the electric flying taxis could fit up to four riders per vehicle, with plans to begin with piloted flights and ultimately become fully autonomous

During the summit, Uber execs also revealed the firm has plans to take on nearly 10 times the number of daily flights than the FAA for a single city – and, it could cost riders less than $2 per mile. 

The models in LA offer a glimpse at the helicopter-like craft that will lift off using a series of rotors. But, the electric vehicles will be far quieter than a helicopter.

The plan will rely on a network of ‘Skyports,’ which will allow the VTOL Uber Air craft to take off and land on rooftops across the country.

At launch, according to Head of Aviation Programs Eric Allison, a trip with the system will cost about $5.73 per passenger mile.

As ridership increases, the firm plans to make it more affordable, with an ultimate goal of achieving costs of about $1.84 per mile.




The firm unveiled its Uber Air design models for the first time at the Elevate Summit in Los Angeles today, revealing a look at the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft that could be ferrying passengers above congested cities in just two years. A look inside the full size model is shown on left, with the miniature prototype on right


The models in LA offer a glimpse at the helicopter-like craft that will lift off using a series of rotors. But, the electric vehicles will be far quieter than a helicopter. Passengers will be able to hail a ride using the mobile app, though these must be booked 60 minutes ahead of time

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    ‘We think cities are going to go vertical in terms of transportation and we want to make that a reality,’ Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CBS News.

    ‘We want to create a network around those vehicles so that regular people can take these taxis in the air for longer distances when they want to avoid traffic at affordable prices.’

    A video demonstrating the firm’s vision of a flying taxi network reveals what appears much like its current on the ground model.

    Passengers can hail a ride using the mobile app, though these must be booked 60 minutes ahead of time.

    Then, they’ll head to the terminal to find their craft.


    According to Stan Swaintek, Head of Operations, Aviation at Uber, the system is designed to be seamless and intuitive for the rider. Passengers will be ‘passively weighed’ to determine the best seating for inside the craft, making for the optimal configuration for balance, Swaintek said. A still from the video demonstration is shown


    During the summit, Uber execs also revealed the firm has plans to take on nearly 10 times the number of daily flights than the FAA for a single city – and, it could cost riders less than $2 per mile. The complex network of possible Uber Air trips is illustrated above

    WHAT IS UBER AIR AND HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?


    UberAir is a network of small, electric, aircraft that enable four-person ridesharing flights in densely populated areas. Artist’s impression shown

    UberAir is a network of small, electric, aircraft that enable four-person ridesharing flights in densely populated areas.

    The ‘electrical vertical take-off and landing vehicles’ (eVTOLs) differ from helicopters in that they are quieter, safer, more affordable, and more environmentally-friendly, Uber claims.

    Users will order the aircraft through the Uber app much like they would one of the firm’s taxis.

    Once they have selected an UberAIR ride, the craft will fly to the nearest ‘Skyport’ – a series of launch pads spread across the city.

    Uber estimates that an all-electric, 200mph (320kph) ride across the skies of Los Angeles will be price-competitive with an UberX trip of the same distance.

    Uber predicts that trips from LAX to the Staples Centre during rush hour can be reduced from up to 1 hour 20 minutes on the ground to less than 30 minutes using UberAir.

    Its prediction includes UberX transfers to and from UberAir launch pads – the flight over LA itself will take around four minutes, the firm said.


     The plan will rely on a network of ‘Skyports,’ which will allow the VTOL Uber Air craft to take off and land on rooftops across the country

    According to Stan Swaintek, Head of Operations, Aviation at Uber, the system is designed to be seamless and intuitive for the rider.

    ‘Prior to pushing the button to get the flight, she acknowledges an in app safety briefing, and then requests the Uber Air trip,’ Swaintek says of the demonstration.

    ‘At this point, all elements of the trip are locked in: her aircraft, co-riders, Skyport pads, and even the first mile solution.

    The ultimate efficiency in this system is really unlocked as a result of our Skyport Network, which as we’ve discussed today, is intentionally sighted to maximize rider convenience.’


    At launch, according to Head of Aviation Programs Eric Allison, a trip with the system will cost about $5.73 per passenger mile. As ridership increases, the firm plans to make it more affordable, with an ultimate goal of achieving costs of about $1.84 per mile

    According to the Uber exec, the ports are ‘built where our riders most frequently start and end our trips.’

    Passengers will be ‘passively weighed’ to determine the best seating for inside the craft, making for the optimal configuration for balance, Swaintek said.

    And, finding your ride is simple; the Uber Air craft will use a color-matching technology similar to the firm’s Beacon system that helps passengers find their Uber car.  

    Earlier this year, Khosrowshahi revealed the firm plans to roll out its self-flying taxis in the next five to 10 years.

    The piloted airborne version of its ride-hailing app is expected to launch in 2020.

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