Standing on the stage at AirVenture’s Theater in the Woods under video screens showing what Uber Elevate would look like, Jeff Holden explained that in a few years people will pull out their phone, tap the Uber icon and instead of pushing the button picturing a car, they’ll push a plane button.
“Urban mobility is not a solved problem. Many cities are gridlocked; some workers have no way to get to their jobs,” said Holden. “Think about the day when Uber Air starts and you push a button to get a flight.”
Uber isn’t going to build or engineer the new vertical takeoff and landing aircraft. Instead, it’s partnering with aircraft manufacturers including Embraer, Mooney, Pipistrel and Bell Helicopter.
What it won’t be is a helicopter, which Uber is ruling out for noise and safety reasons.
The company has so far signed agreements with Dallas and Dubai to build landing pads using existing helicopter routes and eventually have so many that it will be easy to get around, perhaps with Uber car drivers to take people to their final destination.
Holden said Uber plans to launch Elevate test flights in 2020 and start moving paying customers to their destinations in 2023. The company hasn’t set a price for Elevate rides, but Holden said as more routes and aircraft are added, it will likely become cheaper.
“We’re very ambitious. We want this all over,” said Holden.