Flying Cars in the Sky? Uber Plans to Make this a Reality - Dispatch Weekly

October 28, 2016 - Reading time: 5 minutes

Uber has published a 98-page whitepaper entitled, “Fast-Forwarding to a Future of On-Demand Urban Transportation,” that investigates the possibilities of launching an aircraft that can take off and land vertically in urban areas.

On-demand Aviation and VTOL

According to Uber the average San Francisco resident spent 230 hours commuting between work and home in 2015 – that’s half a million hours of productivity lost every single day.

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine cited increasing odds of high blood pressure for those who commuted more than 10 miles.

The ride-hailing app aims to improve this situation by providing on-demand urban aviation, using three-dimensional airspace.

Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) will ensure a speedy and reliable transport service between suburbs and cities, which will be expanded to inner cities.

Self-Driving Cars: the Next Big Investment

The San Francisco based company is investing in self-driving cars, buying Otto, the autonomous trucking company.

Uber has begun taking passengers in driver-less Volvo cars in Pittsburgh.

Other major players in self-driving cars include: Ford, Google, Microsoft, Nissan and Tesla.

The productivity gain from autonomous cars is $422 billion according to Morgan Stanley Research.

A Significant Impact on Urban Transportation

The advantages of a VTOL network include: less expenditure on heavy-infrastructure like roads, rail, bridges and tunnels.

Sky travel also makes transport more flexible, making a network of “vertiports” (VTOL hubs with take off and landing pads, as well as charging infrastructure).

The closest equivalent to the VTOL is a helicopter, however these are noisy, polluting and expensive to replicate on a mass scale.

The VTOL aircrafts will use electric propulsion so they have zero operational emissions and will be quiet with take off and landing, meaning less background noise for residents.

The Benefits of On-Demand Aviation

Photo Credit: REX / Aeromobil can fly and drive on the road using petrol

Uber aim to make on-demand aviation more accessible and affordable for the masses, which will later become less expensive than owning a car.

The aircraft will be clean, quiet, fast and efficient, lowering the amount of traffic on roads.

The cost of making VTOL’s will become akin to automobiles rather than aircrafts, allowing them to be used by the mass.

Possibilities and Challenges

If successful aircrafts will change the way people commute in and out of cities, as well as pollution levels and traffic on the road.

Initially, VTOL vehicles will be expensive to produce but using a ride-sharing model makes trip costs more affordable. If popularity increases than costs should lower.

Uber see their plans as ambitious but state that it is achievable in the coming decade.

However, this is not without many challenges including: the certification process, battery technology, vehicle efficiency and vehicle performance and reliability, among other points.

Do you think VTOL will be a practical solution for commuters? Will you feel comfortable riding in one?

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.