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Melbourne chosen as next pilot city for Uber Air

It will join Dallas and Los Angeles with test flights due to begin in 2020 with a view to commercial operations commencing in 2023.

Uber's air taxi aims to help reduce the heavy reliance on private car ownership
Uber's air taxi aims to help reduce the heavy reliance on private car ownership

Melbourne has been selected as the first city outside the US to take part in Uber’s flying taxi service trial.


As the third official pilot city, Melbourne will join Dallas and Los Angeles for the programme, with test flights due to start from 2020 and plans for commercial operations to commence from 2023.


Urban air mobility


Described as taking Uber’s tech to the sky, Uber Air aims to open up urban air mobility, and help alleviate transport congestion on the ground. In the long term, the vision is for safe, quiet electric vehicles shuttling people across cities for the same price as an UberX trip over the same distance.


“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ride-sharing and future transport technology,” said Susan Anderson, regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia.


“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.”


Congestion reportedly costs Australia $16.5bn annually and is projected to increase to around $30bn by 2030 but according to Uber Air it holds enormous potential to help reduce road congestion.


For example, the 19km journey from the central business district (CBD) to Melbourne airport can take anywhere from 25 minutes to around one hour by car in peak traffic. But Uber Air claims with its flying taxi service it will take around 10 minutes.

“In the coming years, with Uber Air, we want to make it possible for people to push a button and get a flight”

“As major cities grow, the heavy reliance on private car ownership will not be sustainable. Uber’s technology is changing the way people move around their cities – from bikes to pooled rides, we are always looking for ways to reduce the need for private car ownership,” added Eric Allison, global head of Elevate, Uber’s air mobility business unit.


“In the coming years, with Uber Air, we want to make it possible for people to push a button and get a flight.”


Uber also announced partnerships with Australian companies, Macquarie, Telstra and Scentre Group, owner and operator of Westfield in Australia and New Zealand. The company will work with key existing partners including Melbourne Airport which collectively will support the infrastructure and telecommunications needed to create a successful urban aviation network.


“Macquarie Capital is excited to be partnering with Uber Elevate on the development and electrification of the skyports that will support vertical takeoff and landing, as well as determining the best market structures and models for this infrastructure,” said Greg Callman, global head of energy technology at Macquarie Capital.


“We look forward to leveraging our expertise in infrastructure, charging, and energy, along with innovation driven by Uber and other partners to accelerate the move toward electric air mobility.”


Next-generation eVTOLs


In a separate announcement, AT&T plans to explore with Uber how LTE and eventually 5G connectivity can enhance next-generation electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOLs) and cargo drones.


This multi-phase collaboration will to bring together AT&T’s 4G and industry 5G expertise with Elevate to support technologies that will eventually enable aerial ride-sharing and cargo delivery applications.


“We’re in the very earliest stages of seeing what 5G can do to augment next-generation air travel, but we’re excited for the possibilities,” said Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs, and chief technology officer.


“Ride-sharing services were one of the defining mobile applications of the 4G era. Air taxis and other new air vehicles could well eventually become a signature use case for 5G.”


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