Uber Air trial begins in Melbourne next year

Corey Johnson

Corey Johnson

"Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ride-sharing and future transport technology", Susan Anderson, regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia, said in a statement.

The test flights will transport passengers from one of seven Westfield shopping centers in Melbourne to the city's main worldwide airport.

"This, coupled with Melbourne's unique demographic and geospatial factors ... makes Melbourne the ideal third launch city for Uber Air".

The first test city, originally planned to be Dubai, will now be Melbourne, Australia, as the company announced today.

Test flights are expected in 2020, with commercial operations aimed for as soon as 2023.

The rideshare company has been a disruptor to traditional taxi services in Australia and is now facing a class action lawsuit from taxi drivers.

Treasurer Tim Pallas said the Victorian Government would support the venture, but not financially, and alongside Civil Aviation Authority and other key bodies.

Uber submitted the plan to the Victorian government, arguing mass transit by air could take the pressure off Australia's size and congestion challenges.

Uber today announced Melbourne as the first global test hub for Uber Air, a proposed ride-sharing service allowing commuters to hop on an electric aircraft and blow raspberries at the traffic below. Uber Copter will also include pickup and drop-off vehicle service to either the heliport near the Staten Island Ferry or to a helipad near Terminal 8 at Kennedy airport.

This calculus has something to do with "autonomous scale manufacturing" of the helicopters, and increased use of them for heli-pooling.

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

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.

The plan is for the electric aircraft, accredited by CASA, to take off and land vertically from a network of landing and take-off pads dubbed "skyports".

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.

Uber expects the second-most popular route will be between Melbourne and Geelong, a 75km trip that takes over an hour by auto but would be cut to less than 20 minutes by air.

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

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