At the Uber Elevate Expo in Tokyo, the company announced its plans to begin transportation services over air by 2020. Speaking at the event, Eric Allison, Head of Aviation at Uber said that the company has always worked with the goal of giving residents of all cities effective modes of transportation.
Illustrating the impact of growth in cars plying in urban cities, he said, “The average car is parked for 96 percent of time each day.” He added that even when it is used, most of the time, it has just one seat occupied.
Through its existence, he explained, Uber has worked towards solving this growing urban need. However, most of these solutions are predominantly ground-based. As cities grow, and population densities across these growing cities expand, it has become necessary to “look up.”
Uber’s Elevate program plans to do just that. By offering what it calls urban aerial ridesharing, cities across the globe over a five-year period will be able to ease out road congestion as a result of growing population. Starting in approximately five years, Uber customers in select cities will be able to take a flight on demand by simply pushing a button on the Uber app.
The company plans to roll out this ambitious project with a vast network of partners including vehicle manufacturers, real estate developers, technology developers and more. Till now, Uber had identified Dallas and Los Angeles as the first two U.S. cities that the service would launch with. However, at the last Uber Elevate Summit in May 2018, the company said it was looking at a third international city to roll out its aerial transportation service.
After evaluating a list of probable destinations, the company said at the Uber Elevate Asia Pacific Expo that the five countries on a shortlist are Japan, India, Australia and Brazil.
Among the list of countries where Uber is hopeful of starting Uber Air, Japan is undoubtedly the country that needs it by 2020. As host of the 2020 Olympics, Japan will need to significantly augment its already evolved and far efficient transportation network.
Government officials present at the event believed that air transport would help bridge this need by offering rapid and efficient transport means from airports to important but far flung regions of the city suburbs such as game venues during the Olympics.
Examples cited by Uber during a presentation recalled the pain of travelling from the Mumbai airport to its suburbs, from Gurugram to Conaught Place in Delhi, and Bengaluru which are among the most congested cities in the world. With Uber Air, the company plans to enable transportation that works despite traffic jams, instead of adding to it.
According to Uber, it has had “positive conversations with local policymakers and the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority” recently. It mentioned that cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth will need to accomodate millions of more citizens over the next few years. This would potentially result in severe road congestion if the infrastructure need isn’t addressed.
Among the partner companies for Uber Air, Embraer is based out of Brazil. The city of Rio de Janeiro, and the state of São Paulo, according to Uber “are key ridesharing markets globally, and they also happen to be some of today’s most active helicopter markets”, which it believes makes it a market with a strong appetite for urban aerial ridesharing.
The company announced an Advanced Technology Center in Paris, the city where Uber was first born. The company is hopeful of further discussions in the region which is is home to Airbus.
With the announcement of these five countries, it plans to add to its list of places where Uber Air will begin operations, Uber is inviting conversations with stakeholders such as policymakers, and urban planners. Based on how things progress, Uber plans to “announce the next international city within the next six months.”