Updated: Jul 7, 2019
Uber Air is officially coming to the skies of Melbourne, allowing passengers to quickly hail an aircraft from their smartphones and fly over the traffic to their destination.
Melbourne is the third city in the world to trial the air travel ride share service, will sit alongside Dallas and Los Angeles as a pilot city for Uber Air, with trials to start in 2020.
The company will work alongside Telstra, Macquarie and the owner/operator of Westfield, along with Melbourne Airport, to create the infrastructure and communications network necessary for airborne ride-sharing.
The service relies on electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOL) drones with space for four passengers and their "personal bags and backpacks". They'll be piloted by humans to start with, but Uber believes automation will eventually take care of all the driving.
"Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ride-sharing and future transport technology," said Susan Anderson, regional manager for Uber in Australia.
"This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the perfect third launch city for Uber Air. We will see other Australian cities following soon after."
Although details are still up in the air, Uber eventually wants to fly customers to their destination 500 or 600m above the ground at around 240km/h. It also wants rides to "cost as little as an Uber X ride" – we'd suggest the days of low-cost eVTOL travel are a long way off, though.
There are plenty of legal hurdles for Uber to navigate before its air service takes off. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) says there will be "many safety issues to be addressed and CASA will make sure all relevant safety standards are met".
"Australia has a strong track record in aviation innovation and has been a world leader in commercial drones, so we are confident of meeting any challenges," a CASA spokesperson said.
"This is an exciting new development and CASA will play a constructive role in protecting safety".
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