Uber is officially joining the flying car race, announcing their plan to invest millions of dollars in launching the technology in New York City. New York Post reports that the company plans to work with partners to develop VTOLs, which stands for “vertical takeoff and landing.”
The company plans to release the technology by 2020 for the Dubai World Fair. According to the New York Post, a working group within Uber is specifically focusing on bringing the aircrafts to New York City. Rob Wiesenthal, the chief executive of Blade helicopter service, confirmed this goal at an Uber press event.
“We want to bring VTOL to NYC as quickly as possible and we want the public to see them, trust them and try them and hear them,” he said. “Our goal is in five years that Blade will enable New Yorkers to reduce the time and friction of their commutes on an on-demand basis.”
New York Post reports that Wiesenthal expects VTOL to cost as low as $1.32 per mile and fly at 200 mph. These aircrafts would be regulated by the FAA.
News of Uber’s new transport comes after Silicon Valley startup Kitty Hawk released their flying car model. CNBC reports that the company’s new technology, sponsored by big names like Google founder Larry Page, is currently designed to fly over water. Kitty Hawk released a video of an operator cruising the open seat vehicle over a San Francisco area lake.
While most mechanics recommend rotating a car’s tires every 7,500 miles, those days could be over soon. This technology will offer a whole new level of low maintenance user experiences. Page said in a statement to CNBC that the technology fulfills long held flying fantasies, offering an enjoyable and efficient commuting experience.
“We’ve all had dreams of flying effortlessly,” he said. “I’m excited that one day very soon I’ll be able to climb onto my Kitty Hawk Flyer for a quick and easy personal flight.”
Despite the hubbub surrounding these recent announcements, many industry leaders are reporting skepticism. Michael Wade, director of the Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, wrote a commentary in Fortune to express several concerns. He pointed out that what consumers are imagining as a “flying car” is likely not what will manifest in reality.
“If you are imagining a passenger car that can drive on the road, then take off and fly in the sky — think again,” Wade writes. “The majority of what are being billed as flying cars today are actually variants on battery-powered helicopters.”
He also brought up several potential obstacles, including finding efficient battery technology, addressing basic driving risks, securing public safety and privacy, and lowering cost. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that aggressive driving is a factor in 66% of accidents. What will that number look like once drivers are cruising through the air rather than clearly regulated streets?
“For the foreseeable future, flying cars will be dangerous, loud, intrusive, and basically pretty annoying, unless you happen to be in one,” Wade writes.