Talk About Point-to-Point Travel, Uber Says It Will Introduce Flying Taxis in 2020

Paypal co-founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel famous expressed disappointment in the revolution of tech saying something to the effect of, ‘we wanted flying cars and all we got was 140 characters.’

We’ve been expecting self-driving cars to eventually replace people — drivers are to Uber what DVDs in the mail was once to Netflix.

However can we really expect to have aircraft ridesharing, especially after the FAA killed Flytenow’s plan to connect pilots with empty seats on private aircraft with passengers looking to reach the same destination? The federal government has pretty much banned peer-to-peer aircraft ridesharing.

Yet Uber says they will introduce flying taxis to Los Angeles in 2020.

The ride-hailing firm announced Wednesday that L.A. will be one of the first cities served by UberAir, which it says will begin ferrying passengers across the region in electric aircraft in 2020.

Aviation manufacturers such as Embraer, Bell Helicopter, Pipistrel, Aurora Flight Sciences, and Mooney Aviation will supply and pilot the aircraft. Uber will operate the software that passengers use to book a trip and take a commission, much like with Uber rides on the ground.

…“L.A. is a model city for this in that it’s highly congested from a traffic perspective, and there’s not a great mass transit relief on the horizon,” Holden said.

Copyright: simpson33 / 123RF Stock Photo

This is envisioned as a commuter product, and Uber says they eventually want aircraft that fly themselves.

LA’s mayor has made supportive comments however “a spokesperson for the mayor said conversations about regulation, environmental effects and zoning had not yet started.”

This is going to happen but I would be shocked if it happens in 2020. In California let alone the U.S. I believe Uber can handle the tech. If these are new aircraft or new certificated companies flying there are regulatory hurdles there. They’ll need to develop air traffic plans that don’t interfere with already congested skies, and goodness knows the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization — at this point looking less and less likely for congressional modernization — may not be well equipped to handle it.

What are the residents of Santa Monica (and elsewhere) going to say about the noise? What kind of infrastructure projects will need to be built to handle planes offered for commuting, these can’t just be commercial airport to commercial airport.

Uber can fund tremendous losses as they build a business, but this is being pitched as a regular form of transportation rather than a luxury.

All of these hurdles ought to be able to be overcome. However bureaucracies move slowly, which is why I’d expect a test city to be somewhere in the Gulf rather than the U.S. 2020 just seems aggressive, what do you think?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “What are the residents of Santa Monica (and elsewhere) going to say about the noise? ” I believe they’ll be too busy bitching about the traffic on surface streets

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