- REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Uber has launched a new project to bring flying cars to commuters by 2026.
The company published a white paper today outlining its plans for Uber Elevate, a network of on-demand electric aircraft. Known as VTOL aircraft – short for Vertical Take-Off and Landing – the aircraft would be used to shorten commute times in busy cities, turning a two-hour drive into a 15-minute trip.
According to a piece out from Wired on the new plans, Uber doesn’t plan to build the aircraft themselves. The ride-hailing company will bring together private companies and the government to deal with the larger issues of making this project a reality, Wired reports.
The vehicles would be able to travel at about 150 mph for up to 100 miles and carry multiple people, including a pilot, according to Wired. While the first vehicles will be ready by 2021, the expected roll-out date is 2026.
The military already uses VTOL technology for its own aircraft. The planes rise in the air like helicopters but are still capable of flying at high speeds. Here’s what it looks like when one of aircraft takes off, courtesy of Lockheed Martin:
Uber says the project will have “significant cost advantages” over other modes of solving transportation problems, like building new roads, bridges, or tunnels. The company suggests parking garages and helipads could be repurposed to be used as “vertipods” and “vertistops.” Uber says that since the planes don’t need to follow set routes, it would help avoid congestion and improve commute times. Eventually, the planes will be self-flying.
While these types of vertical take-off aircraft might sound similar to helicopters, Uber argues that the planes would have key advantages over helicopters: since they’ll be electric, the planes would have zero emissions, and they’ll be significantly less noisy than helicopters. Uber also believes the planes will one day be less expensive to use than owning a car.
Uber isn’t the only tech company looking into the technology for commercial use. Alphabet CEO Larry Page reportedly invests in a company called Zee.Aero, which also wants to build a “flying car” that can take off and land vertically without a runway. One of Zee.Aero’s prototype planes was spotted at an airport earlier this week. Airbus also plans to fly a full-size prototype before the end of 2017.