Uber unveils flying taxi prototype ahead of annual Elevate Summit

Design models of Uber's flying taxi.
               CBS News

Created to handle up to 200 landings and take-offs per hour, Uber's air taxi will initially be piloted by humans, though the company intends for its vehicles to eventually be autonomous. It's more or less a giant drone with a cockpit for passengers that'll be powered by a series of rotors and propellers.

The current plan calls for demonstration flights to begin in Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles as well as Dubai in 2020, with regular commercial service starting up by 2023. A single rotor on the tail will move the flying auto forward. The other propeller allows the eVTOL to move forward.

Flying cars are coming, so says Uber.

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"Uber is proud to be partnering with ARL on critical research on flying vehicle innovations that will help create the world's first urban aviation rideshare network", said Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate. Customers in the four-seater will initially pay the same as an Uber Black over the same distance and once the service has enough passengers, pricing will drop down to Uber X rates for the same distance. Flying speed will be between 150 miles per hour and 200 miles per hour while flying from 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the ground.

Uber already has a partnership with NASA, the US government space agency, to develop software for managing large numbers of aircraft over cities, Moore said.

Khosrowshahi said he's concentrating not just on correcting the company's past missteps but on making the necessary strides to ensure the company's future growth, including the launch of Uber Air.

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He also addressed Uber's sexual-harassment issues, which led to last year's ouster of Uber's previous CEO, Travis Kalanick. Since then, Khosrowshahi has attempted to rehabilitate the company's image after a series of scandals involving the company's workplace culture, treatment of drivers, and relationships with cities. With Uber's autonomous driving program now stalled, it may be good time for the ride-hailing company to look towards the sky to transport riders.

"What I'm doing is a top-to-bottom audit of our procedures, training, software, hardware, what our practices are", he said.

As small aircraft enter the marketplace, NASA wants to ensure they do so safely, with acceptable levels of noise, and without burdening the current national air traffic control system.

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