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Uber plans to launch 'flying cars' by 2020

Uber allows passengers to summon a ride through an app on their smartphones Photograph: (AFP)

AFP San Francisco, CA, United States Apr 25, 2017, 08.49 PM (IST)

Uber wants to introduce flying cars by 2020, the company said on Tuesday.

The tech company said they preferred the flying cars to be called "vertical takeoff and landing" (VTOL) vehicles as its operation would be like a helicopter.

The cost of hailing the new breed of vehicles will be similar to the existing UberX service, The Independent reported.

The ridesharing giant said they aimed to launch the hovering cars by 2023 across the world.

But in 2020, they intend to launch these mind-bending vehicles in Dallas-Fort Worth metropolis in Texas, and its demo version in Dubai.

The most eye-catching aspect about these cars is the dramatic reduction in travelling time. The company said a 30-minute ride in San Francisco would come down to three minutes if the hovering cars are launched.

The announcements were made in a major press conference held in Dallas.

"The goal of these partnerships is to develop a new on-demand VTOL network to enable customers in the future to push a button and get a high-speed flight in and around cities," Uber said in a statement.

The announcement came at a summit held in the Dallas area with partners in the project.

"What started as a simple question 'why can't I push a button and get a ride?' has turned, for Uber, into a passionate pursuit of the pinnacle of urban mobility -- the reduction of congestion and pollution from transportation, giving people their time back, freeing up real estate dedicated to parking and providing access to mobility in all corners of a city," said Uber chief product officer Jeff Holden.

"Urban aviation is a natural next step for Uber in this pursuit, which is why we are working to make push a button, get a flight a reality."

Manufacturing plans 

The company made the announcement in presence of their major partners.

The largest venture-backed startup have been planning to launch flying cars for long.

In February 2017, they announced they had recruited a NASA engineer to help them realise the dream.

They hired Mark Moore as the director of engineering for aviation at Uber Elevate -- the division that aims to revolutionise travelling in cities.

Uber's plans appear more ambitious, and include partnerships with US-based Bell Helicopter, Brazilian manufacturer Embraer and Slovenia's Pipistrel to produce flying machines for short distance urban operations.

"Uber's Elevate network is an exciting opportunity for Bell Helicopter to help transform how cities move people and products in the future," Bell president and chief executive Mitch Snyder said in a statement.

Embraer CEO Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva praised the "unique opportunity to complement the air transport knowledge of a visionary and revolutionary ground transport company."

The Uber plan also includes partnerships for "vertiports" for the flyers to take off and land, along with changing stations for the transporters, which are expected to be mainly electric-powered.

Uber's agreement with Dubai Roads and Transport Authority calls for a joint study into pricing models, people movement and determining where routes should be created in the city.

"The partnership will result in everything from hover and forward flight tests to actual flight operations in the Dubai area," according to a joint statement.

Uber has grown into the world's largest venture-backed startup, with a valuation estimated at some $68 billion despite ongoing obstacles with regulators and taxi operators. 

In addition to ridesharing in some 80 countries, Uber is also testing self-driving cars in three US metro areas.

Uber's growth so far has not been dented by a series of embarrassing disclosures about a culture of sexism, cut-throat workplace tactics and covert use of law enforcement-evading software.

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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