Uber took the world by surprise in August as it announced that it wants to start testing autonomous cabs, but the company seems to have higher goals in mind.
Jeff Holden, Uber's Chief Product Officer, explained that his company has its eye on the future of mobility and that short-distance air transport is in tow.
He took the floor during the Nantucket Project and explained that Uber is looking into building small planes embedded with vertical take-off and landing technology (VTOL). The futuristic means of transportation could be the secret to avoiding traffic jams in densely populated urban areas.
According to Holden, Uber aims to give its clients "as many options as possible to move around." The head of products adds that VTOL aircraft for commercial use could join the company's fleet sometime in the next 10 years.
The CPO believes that VTOL planes might be an easy solution to bypass traffic snarls. For one thing, they don't require a long runway, which is a must for traditional aircraft. However, they do need a certain amount of space in order to land safely, which could pose a real challenge in overcrowded cities.
Uber is far from being the only organization that aspires to take on the skies.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is planning to roll out an experimental plane under the awe-inspiring name of LightningStrike. Aurora Flight Sciences is the contractor that will use unprecedented technology and embed it into LightningStrike as the second phase of the development commences.
Meanwhile, Airbus' Silicon Valley arm is pooling resources to develop a plane fit to carry people and cargo in a taxi-like way.
In February, Elon Musk, head of Tesla, affirmed that he envisions a VTOL aircraft being built by his company. The CEO already declared that he thought about the specifics for an electric plane, but no more details surfaced on the matter.
If you are already imagining The Fifth Element intro-like scenes happening over your city, we suggest mustering some more patience. There will be some years (decades, maybe?) before VTOL aircraft becomes commonplace.
However, the fact that a mobility giant such as Uber is already taking the future of airborne taxis so seriously is promising and could mean that we will be looking at aircraft hailing services sooner than expected.
Until then, check out the awesome work DARPA has done on the LightningStrike in the video below.