US ride sharing giant Uber will operate a fleet of 1,000 “flying taxis” above Melbourne as part of its UberAir initiate, new documents have revealed.
According to documents accessed by the ABC under a freedom of information request, the Victorian government has committed to helping Uber “navigate the regulatory landscape” and “broker federal relationships”.
Melbourne, along with Dallas and Los Angeles, have been selected by Uber as test cities, with commercial operations due to start in 2023.
The service will operate using the Uber app, using the model it has for car-sharing, where it positions itself as an “aggregator” connecting passengers with aircraft operators in order to travel across a network of landing pads called “Skyports”.
The Skyports will be built from pre-existing parking garages, acting as mobility hubs which will include dedicated pickup and drop-off space for Uber drivers, access and charging areas for Uber bikes and scooters and even UberEats with café seating.
Uber's e-VTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) will be fully electric with a 100 kilometres range flying at altitudes up to 500 metres at up to 320 kilometres per hour.
Uber has recruited six vehicle manufacturing partners: Aurora Flight Sciences (a subsidiary of Boeing), Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, Bell, Karem Aircraft and Jaunt to develop the flying vehicles.
Two routes already being considered are Melbourne to Geelong and Melbourne CBD to Melbourne airport—a trip that would take just 10 minutes.
It is anticipated that when the pilot begins in 2023 the price of UberAir will be equivalent to that of an Uber Black trip— which at the current rate from the Melbourne CBD to the airport costing around $75.
Documents revealed the e-VTOL's carrying four passengers and one pilot “will not need to follow fixed routes”, with up to 90 rooftops set to be repurposed to accomodate the initiative.
“We are a very, very long way from having 1,000 eVTOLs in the sky over Melbourne serviced by scores of Skyportz,” Skyportz director Clem Newton-Brown told The Urban Developer.
“More realistically we are going to see a handful of aircraft operating in a few years over Melbourne, utilising existing helipad and airport infrastructure.”
Uber says Uber Air will help alleviate congestion that it estimates costs Australia $16.5 billion annually, which is forecast to increase to $30 billion by 2030.
Uber has previously stated their target of an appropriate level of vehicle noise will be 67 decibels for a ground observer when the helicopter is at an altitude of 75 metres.
The Victorian government, which lobbied hard to secure Melbourne as a pilot city, has partnered Uber with Invest Victoria, as well the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
Scentre Group has taken the lead on the infrastructure charge for Uber in Melbourne—lending their Westfield centres to the air mobility market cause.
Other Australian companies involved in helping to provide the infrastructure needed for the initiative include Macquarie Capital and Telstra, as well as Melbourne Airport.