A peek inside the future of urban mobility – Uber uses annual Elevate Summit in Washington to showcase its Uber Air concept

14 June, 2019

Uber has provided travellers with an insight into the future world of flying taxis by showcasing what it expects the interiors of its proposed 'Uber Air' operation to look like. At its third annual Elevate conference in Washington DC this week the urban mobility specialist revealed a design proof of the four-seat design capsule that it expects to incorporate into the electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft that could be used to ferry people around congested cities in the future.

The concept is based on short flights within busy cities so there are no real comforts, but a rather simplistic design with two rows of two seats and luggage storage area to the rear. A lighting system brings some colour to the offer, but otherwise you could describe it as sleek but simplistic. But, that is exactly what Uber is aiming to achieve with the design which has been built in partnership with Safran Cabin.

Uber wants the interior design to "become a widely accepted standard for eVTOL vehicle rider experience," and like the inside of a car can be easily modified to fit the specifications of the eVTOL vehicles that companies are developing for Uber Air.

The company has been considering a range of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft options, and confirmed at the Uber Elevate Summit that it would also partner with Jaunt Air Mobility, which has expertise in reduced rotor operating speed (ROSA) aircraft. According to Uber, ROSA will enable an air vehicle design that offers quiet operations, maximum safety, and enhanced ride quality that keeps passengers in a level position from take-off to landing.

Jaunt's specialised rotor and wing design provides both high hover and cruise flight efficiency, allowing it to meet Uber's mission requirements with an all-electric propulsion system. "Jaunt Air Mobility has assembled a highly talented team of experienced engineers with a long history of designing and certifying eVTOL vehicles," explained Mark Moore, director of engineering at Uber Elevate.

While we may only slightly raise an eyebrow to the use of a drone to deliver our shopping, the idea of ferrying commuters around the city in a four-seater air taxi, building major 'Skyports' above motorways to feed the system is a bit more extreme. But Uber is not alone in its thinking. Hundreds of millions of dollars is already pouring into technological start-ups working to build new small, passenger-carrying aircraft. An increasing number of new ventures are emerging pursuing various approaches to eVTOL technology, including household names such as Airbus and Embraer.

SHoP Architects, Gensler, Pickard Chilton working with Arup, The Beck Group, Boka Powell, Corgan, Humphreys & Partners Architects and Mithun are among the practices to create concept designs of 'Skyports' for Uber, which will be hubs for both ground-based and drone taxi fleets. The Uber Air Skyports are designed as "fully considered and technically feasible" buildings to support both its current ground-based fleet of taxis and future aerial transport. The concepts have been envisioned for Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne - the three cities where Uber has already announced it will be launching its aerial taxi service.

If all goes according to plan, Uber Air flying taxis will take off in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Melbourne in 2023, with the short flights starting from USD5 per mile, but expected to reduce in price as the concept grows. Test flights could commence as early as next year, subject to regulator approval.

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