Uber’s flying taxi project just welcomed Mark Moore, a NASA veteran with 30 years of experience with flying contraptions that ferry a small number of people at high altitude.
While self-driving vehicles and autonomous taxis could soon be on American roads, radio cab company Uber has set its sights a little higher than ground level. The company appears quite serious about offering a flying taxi to its patrons in the future. A recent hire by the company for its flying car initiative, Uber Elevate, clearly indicates that the company’s long-term vision isn’t restricted to the highways and bylanes.
Uber recently recruited Mark Moore, reported Bloomberg. With a 30-year experience at NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), Moore can easily be considered an authority figure on high altitude flight. He has been hired as a director of engineering for aviation for Uber Elevate. While the job description is a little sparse, Moore is expected to work on the company’s flying car initiative.
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Interestingly, Uber Elevate appears to follow the standard operation of commercial airplanes, except, it will offer pick and drop services to each individual passenger that calls for a flying car through Uber Elevate. Uber’s vision for flying cars isn’t overly complicated, and surprisingly, avoids the hurdles faced by the concepts that have been introduced till date.
Uber plans to deploy cars, presumably autonomous, to pick up customers from their homes. These clients will be dropped to nearby “veriports.” The veriports can be considered as a hub for all the flying taxis that Uber will operate in and out of the region. Once the passengers disembark from the traditional four-wheelers, they will be ushered into a flying vessel which will rise and fly towards the veriport that’s nearest to the destination of the passengers.
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Moore’s appointment appears to extend beyond his technical prowess and experience as a NASA veteran. He shared the multiple hurdles that Uber will have to successfully clear before its Elevate program becomes a reality. The most obvious technical issues will be limiting noise pollution, improving vehicle efficiency, and significantly boosting battery life if the company plans to operate its flying cars using electricity. However, Moore’s vast multi-decade experience will come in handy when Uber will start reaching out to suppliers for components needed for its flying cars.
Moore revealed that the taxi company will have to drive a hard bargain to ensure that prices remain competitive. Given the nature of the business, a flying taxi will have to be a commercially viable project, but more importantly, the service will have to remain relatively affordable to the end customer. Otherwise, Uber risks making its Elevate taxi service becoming a novelty that the company’s regularly clients might test only once. If that’s not all, there will have to be a lot of negotiations to get the regulators in favor of the project. There is a ton of regulations governing the air traffic or airspace. Regulators will have to significantly relax the norms to allow Uber to ply its trade in the sky.
— RT (@RT_com) February 7, 2017
Fortunately, a lot of the tech that Uber needs for its Elevate service either exists today or can be built with modern-day innovations. While keeping the ground-based and flying vehicles autonomous won’t be a big challenge, their range might be a concern. Moore assumes that given Uber’s vision for Elevate, the flying taxis need not have a range of more than 100 miles. Moreover, these aerial taxis could be charged at the veriports when loading and unloading passengers.
Uber is keenly interested in the entire flying car ecosystem, noted Uber’s head of product for advanced programs, Nikhil Goel. He added that the company is excited to have Moore join them as they continue to explore potential use cases like those outlined in a recent Uber whitepaper, reported TechSpot. Incidentally, the paper on Uber’s Elevate project is openly available.
[Featured Image by Adam Berry/Getty Images]