Uber this week began a global search for a city to launch its planned on-demand flying taxi service, called uberAIR, according to Fortune.
The company plans to start flying taxi demonstrations in 2020 and commercial trips by 2023.
These cars, or more accurately vertical take-off and landing (VTOL or eVTOL if electric) aircraft, are at the center of this system.
Uber first announced its flying car plans in 2016 when it released a white paper describing its vision of the future.
The U.S. first
According to Forbes, the ride-sharing company already has plans to introduce the service in Dallas and Los Angeles, but it’s now soliciting pitches from international cities to become uberAIR’s third launch location.
In Uber’s view, the ideal international city has more than 2 million people and a density of 2,000 people per square mile. There should also be a significant airport nearby that takes people more than one hour to get to and from the city center due to distance and other constraints like traffic.
The city should also be what Uber describes as polycentric, mainly pockets of dense areas of development spread around a larger metro area.
And guess which GCC country meets all those requirements.
Although there isn’t an official word yet, the move by Uber could serve as a potential setback for Dubai, which was previously mentioned as a proposed market for such a service.
Last year, during Uber’s annual Elevate Summit, the company’s Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden announced a partnership with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority to conduct studies related to introducing flying taxis in the city.
He also said the company hoped to conduct passenger flights during the Expo 2020 in Dubai.
“ the first city in the world to embrace the concept of urban aviation,” said Holden during his speech, noting at the time that Dubai’s urban layout was well-suited for an aerial ride-hailing service.
He also mentioned that Uber was collaborating with some of Dubai’s “premier real estate developers” as part of efforts to establish infrastructure for flying taxi service, but said the company wasn’t yet ready to make any formal announcements.
But both the UAE and VTOLs are hardly ready
Here are three requirements for VTOLs:
Stable weather environment. So, a significant city with extreme cold or heat, probably won’t qualify.
The involvement of at least one large local real estate partner and a city government willing to provide streamlined building permitting, as well as zoning processes for Uber’s “Skyports,” the designated drop off and pick up points for its flying taxis.
A robust electrical grid to support the electrified VTOLs is also needed.