Uber Searches for New Test Market for Flying Taxis
Uber Searches for New Test Market for Flying Taxis
Technology giant Uber has now announced its final shortlist of possible test markets for its flying taxi service, Uber Air. We have taken a look at the candidates.
Firstly, What Are The Criteria?
Uber’s announcement was made during a much hyped aerial transportation summit in Tokyo on Thursday. The summit, which was convened by the Japanese government, boasted representatives from 21 international companies, such as Airbus, Boeing, and, of course, Uber. Previous to the summit, Uber launched an official list of its criteria. The chosen country must
- Have a metropolitan population of more than 2 million people
- Dispersed population hubs
- International airport at least an hour away from the city centre
- A willingness to back carpooling services
Uber Air is supposedly meant to launch its inaugural flights in three cities by 2020, and the ultimate goal is to have a fully functioning paid flying taxi service by 2023.
The Fabulous Five
Uber has already chosen 2 out of 3 test cities. Last year, they named Los Angeles and Dallas as the first two test markets. However, at the aerial transportation summit in Tokyo, Uber could reveal that five countries are being considered for the third, and final, spot: Japan, France, Brazil, India, and Australia.
Interestingly enough, this is actually the second time Uber attempts to choose their third city. Last year, Dubai was chosen as the first international test market, but the deal ultimately fell through. At the time, an Uber representative explained that “Dubai has previously expressed an interest in Uber’s vision, but we are broadening the pool given interest from other cities which is why we have launched this criteria process”.
A Strong Shortlist
With Dubai being excluded from the shortlist, it’s clear that the remaining candidates sport unique advantages.
Japan, which for many will be synonymous with technological developments, is a global leader in technology, public transportation, and automotive innovation. France, on the other hand, is already home to Uber’s brand new advanced technology hub.
India can, as we all know, sport some of the most congested cities in the world. Although that’s not exactly something to strive for, at least they fulfil one of the criteria. Australia is open to urban air transport, but there’s really nothing else that makes them stand out from the crowd.
Now, the real interesting candidate is in fact Brazil. The country, which sports both congested cities and a flood of wealthy tourists, already has thousands of helicopters buzzing over its cities as taxis. And, believe it or not, some of them can even be hailed through Uber.
I don’t know about you, but I’d put my bet on Brazil.
Shooting for the Stars?
We have previously reported on how Uber is constantly at odds with society, but it seems as if things might be slightly different this time around. Uber is currently working closely with aviation regulators in their shortlisted countries, thereby making a clear break from the past trend of being at odds with authorities. This time, they seem to say, they want to do it right.
It’s only been a few years since Uber started looking beyond car hailing services, and instead focused on bikes, food delivery, drone delivery services, and, eventually, flying cars. And for anyone living in crippling fear of Ubers’ falling from the skies, there’s no apparent reason to worry just yet. In fact, we have reason to believe that Uber’s flying taxi technology, which is still nascent, won’t be leaving Uber HQ anytime soon. The Verge recently reported on how there’s no guarantee that tech can actually support Uber’s high-flying visions (for now): “The need for batteries that are lightweight enough (...) is one possible hurdle. The willingness of customers to trust Uber to keep them safe while flying above dense, heavily populated cities is another”.
Nevertheless, Uber is not the only company trying to shoot for the stars. Rumour has it that at least 19 other companies are experimenting with flying cars, including Airbus, Boeing, and Kitty Hawk (owned by Google co-founder Larry Page).
So, what’s next for Uber?
Most likely, the company will now consult and negotiate with stakeholders and aviation regulators in each country while they attempt to make a final decision. It’s expected that Uber will announce the chosen country in six months, so don’t hold your breath yet.
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