India, Japan battle it out to win Uber’s flying taxis

Uber's flying taxi

A model of Uber’s electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle concept (eVTOL) flying taxi. Source: AFP/Robyn Beck

INDIA AND JAPAN have been shortlisted by Uber to be the site of the ride-sharing giant’s third ‘launch city’ for Uber Air within the next five years.

Los Angeles and Dallas have already been named as places that Uber will test-run its new drone technology, which includes flying taxis and drone delivery services.

But the firm is now looking for a third city partner, one that is outside of the US. Apart from India and Japan, also on the shortlist are Australia, France and Brazil.

The announcement came at the first Uber Elevate Asia Pacific Expo held in Tokyo last Thursday.

Uber is planning to start demonstrating commercial drone services by 2020 in its selected cities and have a full working service by 2023.

Initially, Dubai was selected as the first Asia Pacific city to receive Uber’s drone technology. However, the selection process reopened earlier in the year to find a city more in need of the services.

“Uber sees a compelling opportunity to bring the same benefits to its food-delivery business that urban aviation will bring to its ride-sharing business,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement.

But beyond innovative food delivery options, the Uber Elevate program will eventually be able to offer ridesharers the opportunity to press a button and hitch a ride in a flying taxi.

The flying taxis will run on jet-powered technology and be capable of verticle take-off and landing, meaning they’ll remain horizontal during the whole flight.

A planned Uber skyport. Source: Uber

The shortlisted countries fulfilled the necessary criteria below:

  • Must be a metropolitan area with a population of over two million people that has a density of over 2,000 people per square mile.
  • Cities that are currently fighting an ever losing battle with traffic.
  • Cities that don’t experience extreme weathers.
  • The governments of the shortlisted countries must have a futuristic philosophy on urban transportation and regulation.
  • Cities with an airport at least an hour away from the city center.

Japan’s capital and India’s Mumbai, New Delhi and Bengaluru all meet the above criteria.

But individually, Japan was chosen as it is already home to some of the world’s greatest public transit systems, tech giants, and has a renowned automotive industry.

So Uber needn’t worry about the government’s approach to futurist technology-based solutions.

“It thrills me to think that the sight of flying cars crossing the sky will soon be a reality,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said at the event.

“I truly look forward to this inspiring initiative, which will open up the future of urban transport.”

As for India, the nation already has a reputation as having some of the most congested roads in the world. So having easily accessible flying taxis would be a great solution to this frustrating issue.

Also, India’s government is continually innovating solutions to improve traveler experiences, such as launching a heli-taxi service in Bengaluru and updating its railway facilities.

The chosen country will be announced within the next six months after Uber has completed talks with stakeholders in each shortlisted nations.

So in the meantime, you’ll have to endure gridlocked traffic and potentially cold takeaway food.