Uber Air trial begins in Melbourne next year

Cornelia Mascio
Giugno 12, 2019

Uber has really doubled down on this idea, having already named Los Angeles and Dallas as pilot cities for its UberAir aerial rideshare program, announced on Tuesday that it is adding a third city: Melbourne, Australia.

A number of aviation companies are now prototyping vertical take-off and land (VTOL) aircraft - essentially helicopters - to be used as part of the Uber Air service.

Victorian Government Assistant Treasurer Robin Scott said the Uber Air trial plays up the state's leadership in "transformative technologies".

Uber has struck agreements with Macquarie Capital, Telstra, Westfield shopping centres owner Scentre Group, and Melbourne Airport to construct "city skyports" to host the Uber Air shuttles.

"Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology", Anderson said in a statement".

"We are delighted that Melbourne has been chosen as the first global trial city for Uber Air".

Anderson said the company hopes to begin test flights next year, with an eye to open the service to commuters from 2023.

"We are delighted that Melbourne has been chosen as the first worldwide trial city for Uber Air", Assistant Treasurer Robin Scott said at the summit.

Dallas and Los Angeles in the U.S. will also be pilot cities.

Uber has proposed using vehicle park roofs - including those of shopping centres - and existing helipads to run the service. "But helicopters are too noisy, inefficient, polluting and expensive for mass-scale use".

VTOLs would make use of "autonomy technology" to reduce the risk of operator error.

To get these craft designed, built and approved by governmental agencies within its highly truncated time frame, Uber has partnered with several established aerospace companies, including Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, EmbraerX, Pipistrel Vertical Solutions and Bell.

CASA previously said the project was possible under the existing regulatory framework and could be introduced within five years.

Uber is certainly not the only company racing to take over the skies.

Uber Air plans to use small and electric aircraft - able to land and take-off vertically - to connect airports and other transport hubs with CBDs, limiting traffic congestion.

Centre for Urban Research expert Chris De Gruyter was sceptical about whether Uber Air can can solve transport problems.

Air New Zealand has also said it is examining an autonomous electric air taxi service.

The local announcement coincides with Uber's Elevate summit in Washington DC.

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