For now, hailing an Uber ride means waiting for a human driver to show up in a car. In the relatively near future, we expect it’ll mean an autonomous car showing up. In the somewhat more distant future, it could include a different option entirely: a short duration autonomous flight from one place to another. Such a reality was recently discussed by Uber’s Jeff Holden, who said the company is looking into so-called VTOL technology — that is, vertical takeoff and landing vehicles.
Holden talked about the technology at the Nantucket Conference recently, saying the company has looked into different transportation options as part of a goal of giving customers as many ways to get around as possible. VTOL vehicles could be one of those options, and though his timeline is ambitious to understate things, Holden cited the possibility of seeing this aerial transportation option go live in the next decade.
There could be some big advantages to VTOL transportation, such as zooming to work above the congested highway rather than sitting in traffic. Using aerial transportation options could also reduce congestion on roads, and could result in what are essentially many small ‘airports’ all over the place — on top of a building, for example.
Such a transportation option would basically usher in the arrival of air taxis, and no doubt many people would be happy to use them, but it seems there are some massive hurdles to be overcome, not to mention the actual development process of creating air taxi vehicles.
The logistics of having many small aircraft zooming around big city skies is no doubt daunting, and there would be major government regulations to overcome. Considering how many restrictions are in place regarding small drone usage, it would be surprising if legislation paving the way for air taxis would be forthcoming any time soon.