Uber announces shortlist of five countries for the roll-out of flying taxi tests

30 Aug 2018

The reference model for Uber’s electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle. Image: Uber

Uber is mulling over future markets for its Uber Air service.

Uber has shortlisted five countries that are being considered as future hubs for its ‘flying taxi’ service.

In April 2017, Uber named Dallas and Los Angeles as its first two launch cities for the scheme. Today (30 August), it said five countries are in the running to become a third location. Cities in Japan, France, Australia, India and Brazil will be vying for the spot.

The chosen country must have a city with a population of more than 2m people, dispersed population hubs and an airport at least an hour away from the city centre.

Uber believes its urban aerial ride-sharing scheme could ease road congestion in the next five years. It aims to launch test flights by 2020, with paid operations due to commence in 2023.

The company will now consult with stakeholders in each country to whittle the shortlist down to just one. The decision will take around six months.

Uber scouting locations

In Australia, Uber is looking at Melbourne and Sydney, while Paris is under consideration in France. The Indian cities of Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi are also runners. The Japanese capital of Tokyo could be chosen, as could Rio de Janeiro or the state of São Paulo in Brazil.

The news came during the Uber Elevate Expo in Tokyo. Eric Allison, head of aviation at Uber, said that the company wants to ease congestion on a global scale. He noted the amount of space a car takes up when not in use and how this needs to change as population needs grow. “The average car is parked for 96pc of time each day.”

Japan is particularly keen on bringing flying taxis to the mainstream and Uber will be joining a government-led focus group in the country to discuss plans. Airbus and Japan Airlines are among the 21 businesses on board.

Diversifying the business

Uber is looking beyond its original remit into new modes of transportation such as bikes and scooters. That doesn’t mean it is leaving cars behind entirely, though, as a recent deal with Toyota demonstrates.

The firm also added that it is seriously considering using drones in its Uber Eats meal delivery business and may be integrating this concept with its flying taxi project.

Updated, 1.30pm, 30 August 2018: This article was updated to clarify that Uber announced the shortlist today, not 29 August. 

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects