Uber, US Army ally to test quiet aircraft technology

Audrey Hill
May 9, 2018

Uber Elevate unveiled on Tuesday what it wants its flying taxis to look that could be buzzing around Dallas-Fort Worth skies in a few years as part of the UberAIR service.

The design prototypes are on display at the Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angeles, where Khosrowshahi is meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao this week. The vehicles resemble helicopters, but are quieter with four prop rotors on each wing and electric propulsion to cut down on emissions.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CBS This Morning that he'd like the taxis to accommodate four passengers to help make them affordable for "normal people".

Uber and U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Army Research Lab (RDECOM ARL), announced on May 8 a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) establishing an ongoing plan to partner around developing and testing the vehicles used in Uber's proposed urban aviation rideshare network. Early iterations will be piloted but eventually, Uber aims to let the aircraft fly autonomously.

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.

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Uber's chief product officer, Jeff Holden, said the program is meant to be "community friendly". It's more or less a giant drone with a cockpit for passengers that'll be powered by a series of rotors and propellers. Batteries with sufficient energy density to work don't exist yet, and Uber asking for them to exist won't help.

He also addressed Uber's sexual-harassment issues, which led to last year's ouster of Uber's previous CEO, Travis Kalanick. The company found that its self-driving feature was at fault when one of its cars killed a pedestrian in March.

"What I'm doing is a top-to-bottom audit of our procedures, training, software, hardware, what our practices are", Khosrowshahi said. "We want to make that a reality".

Eric Allison, the company's head of aviation program, showed a chart indicating that UberAir could conceivably charge $90 for a 29-minute ride between locations that would cost $60 and take 69 minutes using the UberX auto service instead.

Golodryga then asked how important it is for Uber to provide a workplace where women employees can feel safe. It's also planning demo flights in Los Angeles by 2020.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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