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Flying Taxis and the Future of Uber

The future for Uber is all about looking up as the company announced its plan Tuesday at its Elevate Summit in Dallas, Texas to introduce series of aerial taxis to be tested for use. The project will be a collaboration with Aurora Flight Sciences to create the initial vehicles by 2020.

The two companies are planning to build on the idea to create the “Uber Elevate Network” which is their larger plan of extending Uber’s services to air travel. The use of a flying taxi service is a major step into the future of urban living.

Air taxis aim to cut down on automobile traffic while shortening transportation time. The service would represent a move towards greater human efficiency and has been likened to the invention of skyscrapers. This technology is a new example of humans saving space by moving off of the ground and into the sky.

Although casually called “flying taxis” the vehicles are properly referred to as electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, terms which describe their helicopter-like movement. This technology is being adapted to be as noiseless as possible and to have zero-emissions. They will also come with systems to avoid in-air collisions to enhance safety.

The eVTOL designs are based on the prototypes for the XV-24A X-plane project. Aurora has already been researching and developing this project in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

Uber’s announcement of its plans is perhaps an attempt to escape the controversies which have recently surrounded the company. It has not been long since Uber faced claims of iPhone users being tracked by the app even after its removal from their phones.

Trump’s immigration ban led to trouble for the company as well when Uber continued offering rides to JFK airport in the days following the ban. The New York Taxi Workers Alliance had declared a ban on transportation to and from the airport out of solidarity for the people who were held there by Trump’s order. Uber’s continuation of service infuriated many and the #DeleteUber movement gained momentum.

Furthermore, Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO, raised eyebrows for screaming at his driver and later admitting that he needed help with his management of the company. Kalanick and the company both received criticism after the incident.

However, the company is looking forward. Uber and Aurora plan to test vehicles in Dallas, Texas and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. They have already successfully flown one vehicle and hope to continue to make improvements.

The project is hoped to take a different turn than Uber’s recent attempts at the creation of self-driving cars. They have been forced to cease testing for the time being in response to both a crash during a test in Arizona as well as a lawsuit with Waymo over intellectual property rights.

If everything goes as planned the Uber Elevate Network will have approximately 50 vehicles ready for testing by 2020. The taxis will be available upon demand and charge a similar amount of fair to current Uber rides.

The coming years will be an exciting experiment not only for the company but for the effects of eVOLT use on transportation. The old idea of a future with flying cars may not be as far from 2017 as anyone thought.

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