Uber are getting closer to realising their dream of flying taxis with Hyundai signing on to become the first car manufacturer to partner with the app-based transport company on the rollout of Uber Air.
With Hyundai handling the hardware, Uber are set to handle airspace support services, connections to ground transportation, and customer interfaces. In addition, both parties will be collaborating on infrastructure concepts to support take-off and landing for this new class of vehicles.
As per the partnership, Hyundai is set to manufacture and deploy Uber Air Taxis for Uber's future aerial ride share network. To show how serious they are about bringing Uber's Elevate initiative to life, the company showcased a full-scale aircraft concept at this year's CES in Las Vegas.
Natalie Malligan, the head of Uber Elevate, Australia says that "we're just over a week into 2020, and while this Hyundai partnership presents another significant advancement in our Uber Air journey, our approach has always been to be thorough, and to collaborate closely with our local stakeholders and communities."
"We are focused not just on working towards our short-term launch goals, but also in laying the necessary foundations for a network that can scale sustainably in the longer-term.”
The flying car-drone hybrid shown off at the Hyundai press conference is being branded as the Hyundai S-A1. The entirely electric vehicle is designed to take off vertically, transition to wing-borne lift in the air before shiting back to vertical flight in order to safely land.
Hyundai say it'll be able to fly 60 miles at a time with cruising speeds of up to 180km/hour. Initially, the Hyundai S-A1 will require a pilot but Hyundai say the plan is to transition to autonomous flight later down the line. If it does run out of battery, Hyundai say it'll require five to seven minutes to fully recharge. It'll be able to transport four passengers at a time.
As for how much it'll cost, Hyundai and Uber are remaining quiet but they do say they want the airborne taxi to be affordable and not just a perk reserved for the rich and famous.
Malligan says that "while Hyundai presents true scalability - having sold nearly 700 thousand safe, reliable automotive vehicles last year - we will continue to work diligently with all of our existing partners."
Translation: Hyundai are the first major company to sign onto Uber's Elevate initiative, Uber don't expect them to be the last.
"On exciting occasions like a global announcement it is important to remember we still see this as a long-term project and are aware of the challenges ahead. It’s why we are always seeking to design long-term sustainable services to benefit the community and the cities in which we operate. This is an exciting moment, but it is still the beginning of our journey."
Disclosure - our coverage of CES 2020 was sponsored by Intel and Dell, who covered the cost of our flights to the US and our accommodation for the duration of our stay in Las Vegas.