Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi recently talked to students at IIT Delhi in India about the company’s plan to build flying taxis over the next few years. He also made fun of Elon Musk’s plan to build tunnels to connect cities.
“We like Uber Air more. We are working to making VTOL [vertical take-off and landing] a reality in the next 5 – 6 years. Why dig tunnels when you can use the air?” Khosrowshahi said.
Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, plans on building tunnels that will connect New York City and Washington, D.C. He was quick to respond to Khosrowshahi’s dig, writing on Twitter: “If you love drones above your house, you’ll really love vast numbers of ‘cars’ flying over your head that are 1000 times bigger and noisier and blow away anything that isn’t nailed down when they land.”
Flying cars and tunnels are two very different concepts. The former is meant for inter-city transport, while the latter is meant for intra-city transport.
Uber has been working with members of NASA through its Uber Elevate program to develop flying cars. The company and the space agency are collaborating on flying taxi air control software, reports Gadgets360.
One concern is that the sky could get congested as businesses such as Amazon use drones and other flying vehicles to suit their needs. There are also regulatory issues to consider.
Another problem is noise pollution. Twitter users chimed in on Uber’s plan, many criticizing it.
“If you live in LA and ever had to listen to just one helicopter over your home you would understand this is never going to happen,” tweeted Bill Sabbo. He added: “In some cities in Calif they have outlawed leaf blowers because of the noise.”
Yet another user pointed out, “…it’s hard to not laugh when a guy wanting to make a rocket between cities is criticizing a drone car for it’s [sic] noise.”
According to Khosrowshahi, flying vehicles may be here sooner than people realize.
“We’re closer than you think. The key here is actually battery technology,” he said. “The new generation of batteries is actually going to be light enough and dense enough, to be able to power rotors that are much smaller than the helicopter rotors that you see, so you can have vehicles that have, four to eight rotors, each of which because they’re smaller will be much smaller, there will be much less noise pollution, they will be much quieter and safer as well. We are now actively working on the Uber Elevate project, I think we will have vehicles that are flying in five years, and you will have commercialization in ten years or sooner.”