Uber makes more empty promises at its annual flying auto summit

Olive Hawkins
May 9, 2018

"We want to create the network around those vehicles so that regular people can take these taxis in the air for longer distances when they want to avoid traffic at affordable prices", Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CBS News.

On Tuesday, May 8, Uber released more details about UberAir at Elevate Summit 2018 in Los Angeles, the second annual convergence of "the foremost on-demand aviation leaders in industry, government, and academia".

At this year's summit, Uber unveiled yet another flying auto concept, this one being a four-passenger vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) fixed-wing aircraft, with vertical rotors fixed to those wings, giving an overall design that's not dissimilar to the quadcopters that have become popular in recent years.

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Uber's flying auto is set to be revealed today at its Elevate conference in Los Angeles, but CBS News viewers were treated with a sneak peek at the innovative vehicle. Stacked co-rotating rotors have never been used on an existing flying craft before and Uber along with the Army's research lab expect to split a combined $1 million in funding to research the technology. By then, Uber hopes to ramp up to "automotive-scale manufacturing" of air taxis, said Jeff Holden, Uber's chief product officer.

The electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle prototype unveiled on Tuesday resembles a helicopter with five propellers distributed around the aircraft.

In the CBS interview, Khosrowshahi said Uber was conducting a "top-to-bottom audit of our procedures, training, software, hardware, what our practices are".

Uber is holding a conference on flying vehicles this week in Los Angeles.

"I will tell you that the company took it upon itself to change", Khosrowshahi said. With Uber's autonomous driving program now stalled, it may be good time for the ride-hailing company to look towards the sky to transport riders. It faces competition from other companies that are working to launch flying taxi services like Airbus, Boeing, and Kitty Hawk, which is backed by Google founder Larry Page.

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