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Melbourne Is Uber Air’s First International ‘Flying Car’ Market

Original article can be found here by Ana Narvaez, The Urban Developer.

In less than five years, Melburnians will be able to book and share a 10-minute trip from the CBD to Melbourne airport courtesy of Uber Air’s flying car fleet.

The ridesharing giant has announced that Melbourne has been selected as the third official pilot city, joining Dallas and Los Angeles as test cities for the Uber Air program.

The prototype — not quite a helicopter or a plane — is set to become a familiar site in Melbourne from next year as the company launches test flights from next year ahead of commercial operations from 2023.

Uber cited the Victorian government’s forward-looking approach and Australia’s “wholehearted” embrace of the ridesharing app as reasons for its choice. Melbourne was chosen over shortlisted cities Paris, Sao Paolo, Mumbai, Tokyo and Sydney after an 18-month selection process.

While it all sounds a little futuristic, Uber’s plans are concrete: the company has announced partnerships with Macquarie, Telstra, Scentre Group and the Melbourne Airport to fast track the infrastructure and aviation network required to run Uber Air.

“The future of transport is coming to Melbourne and we’re ready to make it happen,” Victorian treasurer Tim Pallas said.

Clem Newton-Brown, director of Skyportz — a start-up aimed at establishing landing infrastructure for eVTOLS (vertical takeoff and landing aircraft) — said it was still unclear what the infrastructure requirements will be.

“It is expected that initially existing airports and helipads will be the focus.

“The technology is not what will be what holds it up — regulation, social license and the necessary infrastructure will hold it up.”

Dr Chris De Gruyter, a vice-chancellor’s research fellow in the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT, says the big question is what kind of trips Uber Air Melbourne will actually be used for.

“Based on what travel survey data tells us, we might see skyports at key activity centres and employment hubs like the airport, Melbourne CBD and other key precincts like Clayton or Dandenong.

“But Uber Air isn't going to help with managing our urban transport problems. These vehicles are very low capacity — similar to what a car could carry — while there are also questions about if these vehicles will create visual clutter in the sky and how environmentally-friendly they are.

“Another risk is ‘empty running’, where there are no passengers, but the vehicle has to travel to pick people up from another location.”


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