Melbourne to lead Uber Air pilot

Melbourne to lead Uber Air pilot

The company's "Uber Elevate" pilot - which will also run in the USA cities of Dallas and Los Angeles - aims to connect transport hubs like airports to central city sites.

Testing is set to begin in 2020, with further testing allegedly happening in Dallas and Los Angeles in 2023.

The Uber Air services will carry four passengers and a pilot, and will take off and land from designated hubs called "skyports".

The programme will "open up urban air mobility and help alleviate traffic congestion on the ground using shared air taxis, also known as electronic vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft", the company said.

Although Anderson said the Victorian government has been "highly supportive", Uber's breakthrough into the state was not met without regulatory troubles.

The electric, on-demand air taxis can be ordered by customers through smartphone apps in the same way Uber's road-based taxi alternatives are hailed. "Victoria is a dynamic, innovative tech state and an economy leading the Asia Pacific region in transformative technologies", Victorian Assistant Treasurer Robin Scott said at the Washington Summit where the plans were revealed.

"This, coupled with Melbourne's unique demographic and geospatial factors ... makes Melbourne the ideal third launch city for Uber Air". A 12-mile journey between Melbourne's CBD and main airport can take as much as an hour during peak hour.

"The ever elusive flying auto future we have all envisioned is one step closer", said Nikhil Goel, head of product for the company's flying taxi arm, Uber Elevate.

"India has this incredible way of leapfrogging, and even if they are not the first one to adopt technology, they are definitely the quickest to get the most advanced technologies", Goel said.

Other companies including Airbus and Air New Zealand are also working on air taxi services.

Other preferences include "polycentric" regions (urban areas made up of multiple cities), and cities that already integrate Uber well on the street.

"As the gateway to Melbourne for tens of millions of travellers each year, we can see fantastic potential for Uber Air in the future".

"But we need to prove to people that this technology can be as safe as helicopters, which regularly fly in our cities. These vehicles are very low capacity - similar to what a auto could carry - while there are also questions about if these vehicles will create visual clutter in the sky and how environmentally-friendly they are", said Dr Chris De Gruyter from RMIT's Centre for Urban Research.

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