Look! Up in the Sky. Uber and Hyundai Unveil Air Taxi.

By | January 7, 2020

Uber and Hyundai Motor Co. announced they will develop Uber Air Taxis for a future aerial ride share network. The companies unveiled a new full-scale aircraft concept at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

In this partnership, Hyundai will produce and deploy the air vehicles, and Uber will provide airspace support services, connections to ground transportation, and customer interfaces through an aerial ride share network. Both parties are collaborating on infrastructure concepts to support take-off and landing for this new class of vehicles.

Hyundai is the first automotive company to join the Uber Elevate initiative. Hyundai’s air vehicle concept was created in part through Uber’s open design process, a NASA-inspired approach that jump-starts innovation by publicly releasing vehicle design concepts so any company can use them to innovate their air taxi models and engineering technologies.

“Our vision of Urban Air Mobility will transform the concept of urban transportation,” said Jaiwon Shin, executive vice president and head of Hyundai’s Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Division. “We expect UAM to vitalize urban communities and provide more quality time to people. We are confident that Uber Elevate is the right partner to make this innovative product readily available to as many customers as possible.”

Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, cited Hyundai’s experience with manufacturing passenger cars on a global scale. “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. 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,” said Allison.

Hyundai’s S-A1 model unveiled at CES reflects some previous designs Uber Elevate has released in the following ways:

  • It is designed for a cruising speed up to 180 miles/hr (290 km/hr), a cruising altitude of around 1,000-2,000 feet (300 – 600 mt) above ground, and to fly trips up to 60 mile (100 km).
  • The Hyundai vehicle will be 100% electric, utilizing distributed electric propulsion and during peak hours will require about five to seven minutes for recharging.
  • The model is designed to take off vertically, transition to wing-borne lift in cruise, and then transition back to vertical flight to land.
  • The Hyundai vehicle will be piloted initially, but over time they will become autonomous.
  • The cabin is designed with four passenger seats, allowing riders to board / disembark easily and avoid the dreaded middle seat with enough space for a personal bag or backpack / rider.

Uber has announced a goal of flight demonstrations in 2020 and Elevate commercially available to riders in 2023.

Uber and Hyundai are not alone in the race to have vehicles operating in the clouds.

In May, German startup Lilium conducted its first flight with vertical takeoff and landing of its all-electric vertical passenger jet near Munich. Lilium hopes to have a fleet of the five-seat aircraft — which can operate with a pilot or in drone mode — flying in cities worldwide by 2025.

Boeing Co. took its flying car prototype for inaugural test flight last January. Boeing is one of several planemakers including Airbus SE working to manufacture =small self-flying vehicles capable of vertical takeoff and landing.

Japan wants to become a leader in flying cars. A test vehicle made by NEC Corp., powered by a battery, recently flew skyward but only hovered for a minute or so.

Transporting freight using the technology is a much nearer term possibility than humans at this point, according to analysts.

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