Electric air taxis will begin flying in Melbourne from next year, as a plan by ride-sharing company Uber to start demonstrating the new form of transport.
Announced at the Uber Elevate Summit this week in Washington DC, Melbourne will join two other cities, Los Angeles and Fort Worth, in the Uber Air trial. Melbourne, of course, will be the first city outside of the US to take part.
“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology,” Uber Australia regional general manager Susan Anderson said in a statement.
“This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the perfect third launch city for Uber Air. We will see other Australian cities following soon after.”
The air taxis themselves, which resemble something between a large drone and a helicopter, are typically electric, taking off and landing vertically (VTOL), and are capable of short range flights making them ideal for fast, intracity commutes allowing passengers to avoid ground-based traffic congestion.
According to Uber, the flights will cost about as much as an Uber X.
With Uber Air planning to start commercial flights as soon as 2023, it will be required to work with regulatory stakeholders, and develop considerable infrastructure including locations for take off and landing.
In order to make the low altitude taxi flights possible, a series of “skyports” are being planned, which it will develop in collaboration with Australian financial services company Macquarie Capital.
Another deal inked with Australian telecommunications giant Telstra will develop the necessary network infrastructure, while a deal with Scentre Group which operates Westfield shopping complexes will provide skyport sites, meaning nipping down to the shop could take on a whole new meaning.
While it may seem like a futuristic fantasy to many, air taxis will likely become part of the public transport mix sooner than many people may think.
A report released by Boston Consulting Group recently estimated there could be as many as 1 billion air taxi flights by 2030 bringing the value of the air taxi market to $2 trillion.