LAS VEGAS—Uber’s vision for the future of flying vehicles is one step closer to reality. On the first day of CES 2020, the ride-sharing-food-delivery-freight-shipping company announced a partnership with Hyundai to manufacture what it’s calling the Uber Air Taxi, a vehicle similar to a helicopter that travelers can soon call to fly across congested cities.
The aircraft, which seats four passengers, will be fully electric with a cruising speed of 200mph at altitudes of between 1,000 and 2,000 feet. The taxi will have several small motors to reduce noise, and will take off and land vertically. The vehicle will be piloted initially, but Uber and Hyundai aim to eventually make it autonomous.
The partnership allows Uber to mass-produce the vehicle using the South Korean automotive company’s manufacturing track record and capability. That’ll be important as Uber Elevate aims to provide its on-demand air transportation services in at least one city by 2023. Between 2024 and 2028, that could grow to as many as 25 cities with more than 100 aircraft. However, that timeline is fluid depending on the results of test runs that will begin this year.
“We believe Hyundai has the potential to build Uber Air vehicles at rates unseen in the current aerospace industry, producing high-quality, reliable aircraft at high volumes to drive down passenger costs per trip,” said Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, in a statement. “Combining Hyundai’s manufacturing muscle with Uber’s technology platform represents a giant leap forward for launching a vibrant air taxi network in the coming years.”
Uber Elevate will begin testing the Air Taxi service in Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne, Australia. The company declined to specify what kind of vehicles will be used, including whether Hyundai’s prototype would be among them.
Uber’s bidding process to manufacture the Air Taxi took a page from NASA, publicly releasing its vehicle design concepts to allow any company to apply.
At last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Bell, unveiled a similar prototype called the Nexus; however, that vehicle was a hybrid, not fully electric.
While Bell has partnered with Uber Elevate since 2017, the design of the vehicle was Bell’s own. Hyundai designed its model directly based on Uber’s concept.