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Forget about hailing cabs, Uber may just let you fly to work

Uber, flying cars
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Cab aggregators have been consistently improving our travel experience. From taking the bus to work, we graduated to cabs and then to luxury cars (Ola Lux for example). However, Uber may be planning to take the experience to whole new heights — like literally! In an interview with the Recode at the Nantucket Conference, Uber products head Jeff Holden talked about the company’s plans for the future., and boy are they ambitious.

So I assume that you have seen at least one of the Star Wars movies. Remember the spaceships that could take off and land vertically? Well, Uber is currently looking at a similar technology called VTOL — or vertical takeoff and landing for use in itts cabs of the future.

An aircraft that deploys the VTOL technology can hover, take off and land vertically. While hovering and taking off vertically also fall into the domain of Helicopters, the vehicles Uber is looking at will have multiple rotors and would most likely deploy batteries to keep the noise down.

We obviously don’t need to reiterate the benefits the induction of such a technology into the mainstream would bring. Travel would be significantly faster. You wouldn’t have to wait for traffic jams to clear and yes, you could land right on the roof of your office and simply take the elevator down.

This is one of the things that may be on Uber’s road-map for the future. According to Products Head Jeff Holden, the company has been looking into the area,

So we can someday offer our customers as many options as possible to move around. Doing it in a three-dimensional way is an obvious thing to look at.

And the someday isn’t all that far either. As per Holden, flying cars could become a reality in as soon as a decade.

However, there are also many who beg to differ. In order to get cars up in the sky, a whole bunch of regulatory as well as technological hurdles would need to be crossed. Even assuming that such cars were developed within the decade, putting them to the skies would require a whole new framework. All sorts of rules and regulations would need to be defined to prevent mishaps, accidents, collisions and of-course, someone dropping something on the ground from that height.

Considering the fuss caused by attempts to fly drones in the US, the road to flying cars is not going to be easy. However, technology is leaping ahead of itself in recent times. A decade ago, people would have laughed at the possibility of an autonomous car driving on the roads and well, what do you know. They are already rolling out.

So yes. Holden’s plans definitely have potential. However, there are a lot —  a LOT — of details that will need to be hammered out before they finally take a real shape. I mean will they be able to fly as well as commute using roads? Will there be airports strewn all over the place or will the cars be able to land on roofs themselves? What will be the safety measures put into place to facilitate emergency landings?

Major tech corporations are not the only ones trying their hand in the field either. Government organizations, including the military, have held the subject in deep interest, although not strictly with the intent of ferrying people. Other companies, including startups, are also making forays into the field. For example, a single-passenger vehicle is being developed by A3, Airbus’s presence in the Silicon Valley. A team of internal and external developers are hard at work and a vehicle design has already been arrived at. A prototype is scheduled to take flight near the end of 2017.

There is also potential for other technologies and ideas, such as autonomous vehicles and car pooling, to be integrated with the concept of flight.

Meanwhile, we will conclude with some words from Henry Ford, spoken almost a century ago,

Mark my word: a combination airplane and motorcar is coming. You may smile, but it will come.

And when it does, Uber at least, will be ready to paste its logo and turn it into a taxi.


 

A bibliophile and a business enthusiast.

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