Eric Allison, who is Head of Aviation Programs at Uber, told the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology of the higher speeds (up to 200 mph) and more reliable timing of the planned Uber Elevate initiative at a meeting Tuesday. These figures are being used by Uber to lay the foundation for a positive relationship with government representatives. In his opening remarks before Congress, Allison reiterated points in the 2016 Uber Elevate Whitepaper: safety and affordability.
Don Beyer, a rep from northern Virginia on the committee, asked Allison: Will there be air traffic jams or crashes? What happens if 25 percent of the the cars are taken of the interstate, does that congest the air above? And what are the air lanes? Are flying cars going to fly above neighborhoods?
“This will happen progressively over time,” Allison said of Uber’s plans for scaling its autonomous — flying machine operations, in answering those questions about the potential for crowded skies. He also noted that air traffic congestion won’t be a problem “because there’s just a lot more space” in the sky. He also said that the still-in-development aircraft will get “dramatically quieter” once they reach cruising speed.
The scalability of Elevate, according to Allison, is something on the order of 10% of all regional trips in the Los Angeles area for any given day.
“You could be talking about tens of thousands of vehicles active [and] enough demand to support that,” he said. “That’s an incredible number compared to what the industry can produce right now; we have to see this industry grow significantly … by multiple orders of magnitude.”
Allison said Uber is partnering with five companies that could build the the VTOL vehicles. They are Aurora Flight Sciences (a subsidiary of Boeing), Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, Bell Flight and Karem Aircraft. Bell Flight’s executive vice president of technology and innovation, Michael Thacker, sat next to Allison during the hearing.
Why it’s important: Uber is getting out in front of the political and regulatory hurdles that are touted as the largest barriers to entry for flying cars – and rightly so. The technological progression of design and development of Uber’s partner company flying cars is so rapid that concurrent government relations during final design and flight testing of these aircraft is integral to an on-time rollout of initial flying car commercial services in 2023.