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Transportation Technology

Uber is Getting Serious About Building Real, Honest-To-God Flying Taxis (theverge.com) 90

An anonymous reader shares an article: When Uber first announced its crazy-sounding plan to explore "on-demand urban aviation" -- essentially a network of flying taxis that could be hailed via a smartphone app and flown from rooftop to rooftop -- the company made it clear that it never intended to go it alone. Today, as it kicked off its three-day Elevate conference in Dallas, Texas, the ride-hail company announced a slew of partnerships with cities, aviation manufacturers, real estate, and electric charging companies, in its effort to bring its dream of flying cars a little closer to reality. Uber said it will be teaming up with the governments of Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai to bring its flying taxis to those cities first. It is also joining forces with real estate firm Hilwood Properties in Dallas-Fort Worth to identify sites where it will build takeoff and landing pads, which Uber calls "vertiports." It has signed contracts (or is in the midst of contract negotiations) with five aircraft manufacturers to work on the design and production of lightweight, electrically powered vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft. And it launched a partnership with an electric charging company called ChargePoint, to develop charging stations for Uber's flying taxis.
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Uber is Getting Serious About Building Real, Honest-To-God Flying Taxis

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  • This is horrible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @01:42PM (#54299939)
    there's no way this can be done cheaply (simple physics tells you that); meaning it'll be the domain of the very wealthy. If this works It'll allow the rich to let the public transit system deteriorate completely while literally being held aloft over it all. If you think the roads & public transportation are bad now wait until the ruling class have no use for them personally.
    • The ruling class already use helicopters to travel above the masses for short distance trips.
    • In Dallas, Texas even most people living at the poverty line completely ignore public transportation. This would have zero effect on that, don't worry.
    • by irving47 ( 73147 )

      You're pretty optimistic about their long-term viability... I'd bet small amounts of shiny coins they'll be bankrupt within 2 years.

    • Air taxis have been around as long as I can remember and I've even used them a couple times... the problem is there are only so many places they can take off and land safely. Buying up property for landing and take off still means limited destinations and departures and a limited number of vehicles in service. Not to mention the regulations related to flight or how so far they have tried to ignore in their ride sharing program which won't be tolerated by the FAA.

    • It's a publicity stunt.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Electric flying taxis!"
      "You mean, like helicopters?"
      "No, totally not helicopters. Flying taxis!"


      "So, the designs are in, and the only practical solution was basically a helicopter."
      "And how is that new?"
      "It's an electric helicopter. For the masses!"


      "The electric part didn't quite pan out. But we can still make helicopter taxis."
      "Don't those already exist?"
      "Ours will be better! And have an app!"


      "It turns out that designing and building a new model of helicopter isn't all that easy."
      "So we're finish

      • "Clearly we need to invent a new electric flying taxi!"

        I, for one, just can't wait until...

        "Welcome aboard, Mr. Dallas. Fuel level ten. You have one point left on your license."


    • When the revolution comes, we'll know where all the very wealthy will be.

      • they're Global. They can live anywhere now. They might occasionally fly into a big city but they don't live there. You might know where the 1% of the 1% are because they're famous, but they're also protected by private militaries so good luck with that.
    • Re:This is horrible (Score:4, Informative)

      by clovis ( 4684 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @03:11PM (#54300543)

      It's not about the rich havening an advantage over the poor; it's wrong to let anyone have speed advantage in daily commuting.

      There's no way to integrate this with Complete Streets initiatives.
      https://smartgrowthamerica.org... [smartgrowthamerica.org]

      We'll have flying taxis zipping about at high rates of speed above everyone, and I can't see any way to slow them down to make everything fair by putting bicyclists and pedestrians in the sky; They'll just fall to back to ground.
      I'm totally against flying taxis unless we make the airways safe and fair for bicyclists and pedestrians.

      On second thought, we can put bicycles and pedestrians in balloons tethered to the ground like barrage balloons. That would slow down the flying taxis and make it fair to everyone.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      there's no way this can be done cheaply (simple physics tells you that); meaning it'll be the domain of the very wealthy.

      Jeeeezus Christ with this "only-for-the-1%-folks" nonsense. This nonsense has always been said of all new technology.

      ALL. OF IT.

      ALL THE. TIME.

      Get this in your head: NEW TECHNOLOGY IS ALWAYS EXPENSIVE. Get it? It is the cost of innovation. Pretty much always. Three examples: cars, computers, cellphones. Sucesive iterations of new technology eventually get cheaper and cheaper. But R&D is what makes it expensive in the beginning.

      Thing is that people immediately want things to be dirt ass cheap from day one

    • by pelpet ( 981194 )
      This should be doable with current technology. The 113 kW hydrogen fuel cell in a Toyota Mirai is 56 kg [mytoyotamirai.com], the hydrogen tanks 87,5 + 5 kg [wikipedia.org]. 148,5 kg in total. In a standard helicopter, 1 horsepower can lift 5,1 Pound. 1 hp = 1,3 kW, 5,1 Pounds = 2.3 kg. So 1 kW Power = 3 kg lift. With 339 kW power, a drone should be able to lift around 190 kg + the mirai fuel cell stack. So with a lightweight carbon fibre body and motors, one person should be flyable by hydrogen drone. I am quite certain that some weight red
    • You're an Uber exec. You have access to billions of dollars (literally) of other people's money and they've demonstrated, by tolerating the whacky antics of the company to date, that they really don't care how you spend it and don't ever expect to see it back.

      Why would you NOT spend it on flying cars?

  • by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @01:47PM (#54299963)

    The field of flying cars and electronic drones usually excites me. Most of the ideas are pie-in-the-sky, but by and large I find the field fascinating... ... until they talk about Uber creating flying taxis, then the fascination turns to horror.

    • ... until they talk about Uber creating flying taxis, then the fascination turns to horror.

      New Frontiers in Surge Pricing!
      We can't help but notice from your profile data that you would most likely enjoy not plummeting to your death... Accordingly, a considerable fee has been added to the cost of this trip to cover the surge of electricity required to keep you airborne... Have a nice day!

    • until they talk about Uber creating flying taxis, then the fascination turns to horror.

      Look on the bright side: at least it is not United Airlines developing them.

  • Not crazy (Score:2, Interesting)

    This is actually doable, unlike "autonomous car" BS. Essentially electric light aircraft/helicopters. The .001% travel this way already (minus the electric part).
  • They're going to try to get Lyft drivers, investigative reporters, and law enforcement to jump off tall buildings.
  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @01:57PM (#54300047)

    You can't safely operate flying vehicles in close proximity to tall buildings... so we're going to need a lot more rooftop landing pads and better roof access to them.

    The reason you can't fly deep within a heavily urban landscape is that buildings make very strong vortices as wind is forced around corners. Yeah, it looks cool in movies when a helicopter comes down Main, but it's not something you want to do if there's anything more than a light breeze. And then there's all the extra obstacles as you get closer to the ground - wires, lamp posts, signs, etc.

    • Yeah it probably needs to join forces with real estate firm Hilwood Properties in Dallas-Fort Worth to identify sites where it will build takeoff and landing pads.
      • Wow. I thought Toronto was small, but Dallas-Fort Worth has a tiny downtown core and a LOT of sprawl. I don't think you'd bother with rooftop landing there, for downtown you'd just land on the outskirts and walk the rest of the way, and everywhere else you'd just use the parking lot for your destination building.

        Of course, that's probably why they're talking about doing this there rather than a more dense urban area.

    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      Computer operated quadcopters can theoretically deal with vortices better than human pilots in traditional helicopters, but yeah, that's a definite concern. I expect their flight profile to be more or less straight up, fly to destination, straight down, even thought that's a rather inefficient flight plan.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @01:58PM (#54300061)
    Making them fly is easy - just have every other driver miss that turn on the bluff. Letting them land where they want with all passengers intact is another matter.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Apparently... [sfchronicle.com]

    And for some crazy irony, my captcha is: STRESS

  • by Anonymous Coward

    However, I haven't missed it, so I've decided to double my investments in popcorn.

    I'm looking forward to seeing Uber trying to weasel out of FAA rules.

    "It's not an airplane! We don't have to follow the FAA's rules! It's a car, that flies! That's totally different!"

  • Fly United... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @02:08PM (#54300143)

    Do you really want to take a ride in flying taxi that's run by a CEO who routinely breaks laws and regulations to get what he want?

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/23/technology/travis-kalanick-pushes-uber-and-himself-to-the-precipice.html? [nytimes.com]

  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @02:26PM (#54300223)

    So, Uber, the most illegal company in the news this year, full of malware issues, HR issues, surveillance issues, gaming drivers, gaming passengers, stealing money from both, and are they even profitable yet?

    Yeah, let's partner with them. Great idea.

  • Translation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GrumpySteen ( 1250194 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2017 @02:27PM (#54300231)

    Uber Is Getting Serious About Using The Dream Of Real, Honest-To-God Flying Taxis To Suck Money Out Of Investors

  • I mean if they are all fully developed and active and safe like in the 50s comics then maybe, but until then the vast majority of people would say no thank you. And you can't get far when most people say no thank you. Kind of like with VR.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I thought Uber was quite clear they were a "ride sharing" service.

    It'll be fun to watch them get smacked down by the FAA when they inevitably decide the laws governing commercial aviation don't apply to them. That is, if the company's still around by the time they plan to roll this out.

  • Their design will require special landing and take-off zones, such as on the roofs of parking garages. Why?

    The obvious solution is a quad (or multi) copter design with elevator that lowers on cables from the ends of the arms (near the propellers). This will enable it to drop-off and pick-up close to anywhere, without causing wind damage. The elevator should stay stable even in high winds at a reasonable distance under the multicopter.

    It also makes sense to design the propellers for lower noise, drop-off

  • gullible much? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    This is nothing more than a fluff piece to make Uber look cool and distract people from their horrible practices

  • While this may seem like a very ambitious endeavor for a relatively small company, Uber plans to create cars that can fly by simply ignoring the laws of physics.
    • Well, they ignore laws passed by local governments. It only stands to reason that they can also break the laws of physics..

  • And these flying taxis will come flying out of my ass..

  • They should get a logo made up of a pig with wings and flying, because that's about when that gets done. Or put the design in Popular Science with all the other things that never come to fruition. I would concentrate more on their core business of trying to make the current business debt free and possible first.
  • "Uber" and "Honest" appear together in same headline.
  • This will be regulated to hell the first time one of their Muslim drivers fills one with explosives and flies into a state capitol building. They aren't putting up all those anti-vehicle barriers just to have the taxi drivers fly over them.
  • Well, except for the "electric" part, we already have that. The "VTOL aircraft" are helicopters and "vertiports" are heliports.
    And I wouldn't bet on commercially viable electric full-size helicopters now. Energy density is crucial and today's batteries simply can't compete with hydrocarbons fuels.

    So I bet the only thing that will come out of it is an app that helps get pilots and customers in touch. That's if anything happens at all.

    • Batteries can't compete with hydrocarbon fuel for aircraft which need substantial range / flight duration. Aircraft which only need to fly short trips of let's say, 30 minutes max, aren't as impacted by the difference as much. And going all electric gets rid of turbine maintenance, removes design factor of protecting against engine blade out damage, and allows "re-fueling" with simple electric connection at many points in urban grid, not dependent on avgas. Or in other words, electric propulsion ALREADY N

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