Global ridesharing giant Uber has named Melbourne as one of three locations around the world for its aerial taxi service trial. The company’s “Uber Elevate” pilot — which will also run in the US cities of Dallas and Los Angeles — aims to connect transport hubs like airports to central city sites.Source: ABC
Uber Elevate set to take off in Australia with flying taxi trial in Melbourne
The rideshare company said test flights were due to start from 2020 and plans were for commercial operations to commence from 2023.
The announcement was made at the company’s Elevate summit in Washington after sealing the deal with Melbourne Airport and companies Macquarie Capital, Scentre Group and Telstra.
“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing 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.”
The rideshare company has been a disruptor to traditional taxi services in Australia and is currently facing a class action lawsuit from taxi drivers.
Ms Anderson said Victoria’s state government had been “highly supportive” of the plans for the trial.
“We are delighted that Melbourne has been chosen as the first international trial city for Uber Air,” Assistant Treasurer Robin Scott said at the summit.
Trial to move away from ‘noisy, inefficient’ helicopters
A 2016 Uber Elevate paper described a network of small and electric aircraft that can take off and land vertically known as VTOL (vertical take-off and landing).
It proposed using sites like car parks roofs and existing helipads to run the service.
“The closest equivalent technology in use today is the helicopter,” the paper said.
“But helicopters are too noisy, inefficient, polluting and expensive for mass-scale use.”
VTOLs would make use of “autonomy technology” to reduce the risk of operator error.
Last year, the company met with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to discuss the regulatory and safety issues for Uber Air.
CASA previously said the project was possible under the existing regulatory framework and could be introduced within five years.
Uber is certainly not the only company racing to take over the skies.
Airbus is trialling its own air taxi service using a prototype electric aircraft, similar to a drone, which can take off and land vertically.
German company Volocopter is set to test its own drone-based vehicles in Singapore later this year.
Air New Zealand has also said it is examining an autonomous electric air taxi service.
It would not be the first time Uber has offered an air service in Melbourne.
Uber Chopper subsidised $1,000 one-way helicopter flights from Batman Park to Flemington Racecourse during last year’s Melbourne Cup Carnival.
The local announcement coincides with Uber’s Elevate summit in Washington DC.