Will Uber Elevate ever happen
Uber is working with NASA to build a flying car by 2020 that is two years away
Fully focused and scandal-free hail giant Uber said it reached an agreement with NASA today to develop a new traffic control system for the company's "flying cars," which are more precisely vertical take-off and landing vehicles. By 2020, Uber plans to test the currently nonexistent vehicles in Los Angeles. Until 2028, “tens of thousands” of flights will be carried out through the city every day.
When it comes to the future of travel there are plenty of pie-in-the-sky ideas out there. I'd like to share what is happening with Hyperloop, as crazy and costly as it is, because at least it is actually being tested. But flying cars have been peak bullshit for decades.
How The Verge notes, there are currently no VTOL vehicles or the extensive infrastructure that would be required to support these vehicles. It's nothing more than a concept - just like the endless projects with flying cars in front of it.
That's why we regularly laughed at the idea of VTOLs, because they always only two years away. But with LA officials on board and the NASA is hard to avoid, at least considering what is being turned up here.
Here is a description by Forbes :
Ubers product manager Jeff Holden said Verge, he thinks the concept must be taken seriously, because even without a product that still needs to be tested, "great progress" has been made.
"We're feeling really good," he told the news agency. “It was a really interesting process to match our vehicle manufacturers to performance specifications so that they build vehicles that meet our needs in order to make Elevate successful. So a lot of good progress there. "
The company has a number of well-known partners on board, including real estate developers and aircraft manufacturers who develop vehicles and take-off and landing centers. Which, cool. But it all seems so depressed. For example, consider this quote from Uber's white paper on the idea (focusing on ours):
Who doesn't like the idea? Sitting in traffic sucks. Why exactly did Uber shoot this scene in this futuristic concept of what life is like with working VTOLs?
Why is she staring at traffic jams! Why, in your idyllic future of the world where a working mom can take a flying car to get home to her kids, a world free of traffic jams because tens of thousands of flying car trips are made every day, stares this person overloading them down on them . What kind of marketing ploy is that? An accidental nod to the ineffectiveness of VTOLs? A tacit admission that it will only be available to the wealthy?
As with autonomous cars, it's safe to say that a futuristic mode of transport like this - at least early on - is mainly used by wealthy people. Which, well. And Holden firmly believes it's a scalable plan that is fine.
I really don't want to belittle the idea. The cost of owning a car can be incredibly high depending on your circumstances. So it is good that we think about how we can make it easier for people to get around, and at a reasonable cost.
But Uber is still trying to find a business model that works for the taxi sector. The company relies on private capital to subsidize trips and compete with a growing, crowded field. There are a ton of issues to deal with internally and it's a public relations nightmare. And the regulation and certification process for VTOL vehicles will be very intense, probably even more intense than for autonomous vehicles.
Maybe it will happen anyway. We can come back in two years.
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