American ride-hailing company, Uber Technologies Inc and South Korean carmaker Hyundai Motors have teamed up to develop electric air taxis to join the global race to make small self-flying cars in order to ease congestion in urban areas.
Germany’s Daimler, China’s Geely Automobiles and Japan’s Toyota who are major global players have all invested in startups that aim to produce electric flying cars that are capable of vertical take-off and landing. However, there are technological and regulatory hurdles to get the planes to fly off vertically and safely land.
Uber and Hyundai gave differing timelines for commercialization owing to these hurdles. "We've been making steady progress towards a goal of launching Uber Air by 2023," Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, said at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Euisung Chung, the Executive Vice Chairman of Hyundai has said that he expects commercialization of urban air mobility services by 2028. He further added that it would take time for laws and regulations to be placed on the new mobility service. Hyundai is the first to join Uber’s air taxi project. Hyundai will produce the vehicles capable of flight while Uber will provide the aerial ride-share service.
Uber has partnered with eight other companies for its air taxi project but has acknowledged that it would be very unrealistic to expect all their partners to go commercial at the same time. "Our plans for our limited commercial operations in 2023 will likely involve other partners," stated Sarah Abboud, Communications Manager at Uber.
Hyundai plans to unveil a concept electric aircraft developed with Uber at CES with the self-flying car designed to carry up to four passengers with a pilot over the distance of 100 kilometers (60 miles).