Cars are so last century: Uber wants to fly you to work

The ride-sharing firm isn't content with just the roads, it seems, and is now looking at the runway.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Uber, the fast-growing and sometimes controversial ride-sharing company, has revealed aspirations not only to be the app of choice when you need transport on the road -- but also in the air.

The company, which caters for millions of users and completed its one billionth ride last year, is not without controversy -- many legal disputes stemming from conflicts with traditional taxi services -- and Uber's potential future business direction has once again put the firm in the spotlight.

In an interview with Re.Code at the Nantucket Conference, Chief Product Officer at Uber, Jeff Holden revealed plans for Uber to perhaps, one day, offer commuters the chance to avoid traffic and delays by taking to the sky.

The executive said that Uber is seriously looking at short-haul flights for city residents. Uber is exploring vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) technology which allows aircraft to hover, take off and land with a minimum of noise and space.

Researchers at the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are exploring the idea for military purposes and have developed the VTOL X-Plane, a prototype designed to increase the speed of VTOL vehicles beyond roughly 150 - 190mph but keep range, efficiency, and noise within acceptable limits.

Eventually, the researchers hope to create a model able to travel at approximately 460mph, hover effectively and carry a payload of a "useful" weight.

Holden said VTOL is being explored by Uber now "so we can someday offer our customers as many options as possible to move around."

"It could change cities and how we work and live," the executive added.

Uber has offered customers helicopter rides before, but this was based on marketing and promotion rather than any kind of trial for a new transport offering.

While the executive believes such technology could be used in cities within a decade, this may be a stretch. But considering how quickly drone development has come in the last few years with companies including Amazon looking at drone delivery business opportunities, who knows.

Last week, the ride-sharing company announced a new security process which will require Uber drivers to 'check-in' before starting shifts by taking a selfie. The company hopes this will add an extra layer of security and reassurance to passengers and will also cut down on fraud.

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