Plans for Melbourne's flying taxi service get serious as Uber Air head appointed

The company seems to be pushing forward with the launch of Uber Air in Melbourne next year.

Uber Air flying taxi service to be trialled in Melbourne Telstra, Macquarie, Westfield-operator Scentre Group, and Melbourne Airport to help the Silicon Valley darling launch a third Uber Air pilot city and the first outside of the United States.

Uber has announced the appointment of Natalie Malligan as the new head of Uber Air for Australia, charged with getting the company's flying taxi service off the ground in Melbourne.

Announcing the appointment in a blog post late Monday, Uber Australia said Malligan will be responsible for making Uber's ambitious urban aviation plans a reality, working alongside the Victorian government, Melbourne Airport, federal aviation agencies, and Melbourne communities.

Uber Air has been touted by the company as an "urban aviation ride-sharing product", which it hopes will ease traffic congestion on the ground.

Melbourne in June was announced as the third pilot city for Uber to trial Uber Air, and the first outside of the United States.

Test flights have been pencilled in for next year, with plans for commercial operations to commence from 2023.

See also: Our autonomous future: How driverless cars will be the first robots we learn to trust (PDF download) (TechRepublic)

"In the long term, the vision is for safe, quiet electric vehicles transporting tens of thousands of people across cities for the same price as an UberX trip over the same distance," Uber said in a statement when announcing the initiative down under.

The company in August last year announced five possible markets to launch its pipedream: Australia, Brazil, France, India, and Japan. It also confirmed that from 2023, customers will be able to get a flight on-demand in Dallas and Los Angeles.

Uber had in February told an Australian House Infrastructure, Transport and Cities Committee that it was keen to trial Uber Air in either Melbourne or Sydney and that it just needed Australian governments to work alongside the Silicon Valley darling to make that happen.

In announcing Uber Air was coming to Australia, the company announced partnerships with Macquarie, Telstra, and Westfield-operator Scentre Group, and said it would work with existing partners including Melbourne Airport to develop the infrastructure and telecommunications needed to create the aviation network.

See also: Uber, US Army partner up for silent electric aircraft tech (CNET)

Malligan was previously Uber's head of cities for Australia and New Zealand.

She previously worked as a manager in Bain and Company's Private Equity practice in San Francisco and Sydney and holds a combined Bachelor of Commerce and Law degree from the University of Sydney, and a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University in New York.

Meanwhile, Airbus is working on its own air taxi product, Vahana, with the company in July showing off a full-scale demonstrator vehicle that recently completed a full transition flight.

Vahana has undertaken more than 80 flight tests since last year, which the company said help to validate the overall design and configuration. The lessons learned from Vahana, Airbus said, will enable Airbus Urban Mobility to develop a future market-ready electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle.

Airbus also has a partnership with Audi.

In the eVOTL space, there's also competition coming from NFT with its Aska dual-purpose vehicle designed both to drive on roads and to fly through the air; Kitty Hawk, funded by Google co-founder Larry Page and led by self-driving car pioneer Sebastian Thrun; Ehang from China; Terrafugia, which hopes to sell its flying car in 2019; and AeroMobil in Slovakia, which like NFT, hopes for a hybrid flying-driving vehicle.

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