Imagine hailing an air taxi to fly you from your office in Central Delhi to the meeting location in Gurgram in 10 minutes. That might sound like a scene straight out of a sci-fi flick. Not any more.
Uber intends to achieve this with 'Uber Elevate', one of its most ambitious projects. The SoftBank-backed multi-national is considering India along with countries like Japan and France to be a part of this futuristic scene.
Uber had named Dallas and Los Angeles in the US as its first two launch cities for its aerial taxi service and has been on the prowl to select an international city as third partner.
It has now short-listed five countries - India, Japan, Australia, Brazil and France - and one of them will become the first Uber Air City outside of the US, it said. It hopes to start operating demonstrator flights starting 2020 and beginning commercial operations in 2023 in the three cities.
'In pursuit of our first international launch market, where you will be able to push a button and get a flight, we are announcing a shortlist of five countries where Uber Air can immediately transform transportation and take our technology to new heights,' Eric Allison, Head of Uber Aviation Programs, said.
Uber said Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru in India are among the most congested cities in the world and travelling even a few kilometers can take an hour.
It believes that its aerial service has tremendous potential to help create a transportation option that bypasses congestion, instead of adding to it.
The Uber Elevate team will engage in talks with stakeholders across major cities and announce the chosen Uber Air international city within the next six months.
The decision will be based on factors like size of the market, and availability of enabling conditions. Uber Elevate will also take into account a third criteria of local commitment, where it will work with respective governments and communities to make the dream project a reality.
The company plans to use vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft for the service. A fancy video depicting the future scenario shows riders booking an aerial ride from their smartphones and hopping onto the VTOLs via helipads atop a high-rise.
According to a whitepaper, a ride between Marina in San Francisco to downtown San Jose is expected to take 15 minutes (43.3 miles) in a VTOL compared to 1 hour 40 mins in an Uber cab (56.9 miles) and 2 hour 12 minutes in Caltrain (55.4 miles).
This aerial ride is expected to cost about $129 initially, which could be brought down to $43 in near-term and $20 in the long term. Comparatively, users today pay about $111 in an UberX (cab ride) and $83 in UberPOOL (shared ride) for the same ride.
Besides, Uber Elevate also plans to experiment with drone delivery for Uber Eats.
'Uber sees a compelling opportunity to bring the same benefits that urban aviation will bring its ridesharing business to its food-delivery business. By taking to the air, Eats will be able to offer faster, farther reaching, more affordable, and more reliable deliveries to more customers and restaurants across the world,' it said.