It's not the Jetsons, it's for real. Flying cars. Well, flying taxis to be exact. Uber is moving full speed ahead with its plan to develop aircraft that can zoom people around cities, much in the way Uber drivers do so now. Months after first unveiling its air taxi program, Uber has now partnered with the U.S. Army Research Lab at the University of Texas-Austin to work on specific technology for its flying taxis. "Uber has a vision where you have thousands of these flying taxis taking off and landing from all over cities all the time," says Dr. Chris Cameron with UT's Cockrell School of Engineering, which is overseeing the project.
Specifically, the project is about finding ways to reduce noise from the aircraft. "We were approached by Uber to look at some new concepts for creating quieter rotors to allow for vertical landing and takeoff operations in densely populated areas," says Dr. Cameron. In other words, these aircraft must be much quieter than helicopters if there are ever going to be "thousands" of them zooming around cities.
The joint effort between Uber and UT is set to last 18 months, after which Uber hopes to begin testing the air taxis by 2020. Dallas and Los Angeles were chosen as the first two test cities, because of their layout and heavy traffic. "The timeline for some of the first deployment where people will be able to order air taxis in cities such as Dallas is 2023," says Dr. Cameron.
There's still a lot of work to do before Uber can get air taxis off the ground, but those who doubt are reminded that not long ago, the very concept of Uber itself was unheard of. "This has totally changed the way people are thinking about transportation, helicopters, and what the future could look like for getting around big cities," says Dr. Cameron.