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Flying cabs - really?

Sarah Putt, Contributor. 13 June 2019, 6:09 pm

Uber announced at its annual shindig 'Uber Elevate' that it will begin testing an air taxi service next year in Los Angeles, Dallas and Melbourne, with expectations of launching a commercial service in 2023.

That's quite soon and there is a lot to be done.

For starters the 'Uber Air' aircraft needs to be signed off by the regulator and put into production (concept visuals look like a helicopter crossed with a shuttle), and to that end Uber is working with Boeing and Bell Helicopters. Then there is the infrastructure to support the landing and take-off pads (to be located in 'skyports' on top of shopping malls and carparks) which need to be built. For that, Uber is working with developers such as Scentre Group, the owner of the Westfield Group.

Picture if you will a day when you can rock up to your local mall, board an air shuttle to the airport and arrive there in 10 minutes tops, all for the price of what you'd pay an Uber (car) today. Is it possible this is just five years away for the residents of Melbourne?

Tech companies are good at hype. Especially the tech company Uber, which has displayed a fair amount chutzpah over the years. At the same event where it announced 'Uber Air' it also talked about using drones for Uber Eats (not exactly door to door, more door to nearby food fulfillment centre). And all this from a company that had a disappointing IPO last month, where instead of the usual 'bump' in shareprice, there was a noticeable 'dip' - alhough it is recovering.

But, and here's the thing - the ideas are great. Especially if, like me, you are hoping that the car you own and drive today is your last. That public transport options become as convenient and cost the same - if not less - as owning your own car. And this is public transport that isn't funded by public money, but by commercial interests.

If you could Uber Air (or its equivalent) into town and then e-scooter or catch a driverless car to meetings, then how much better would that be for the environment? Wouldn't that be a nicer and better way to live? The central city area could become closed to private cars so that e-scooters could get off the footpaths and be a safer mode of personalised transport for riders and pedestrians alike.

Shared transport that integrated with public transport, which fed commercial, government and individual interests is surely something to get excited about - regardless of what tech company manages to help pull it off.


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