Uber Picks Melbourne As Test Site For Flying Taxi Service

Andrew Cummings
June 12, 2019

Melbourne has been chosen as one of three cities to experience Uber Air before anyone else, with the ride-sharing giant announcing that test flights will begin in 2020.

Dallas and Los Angeles in the U.S. will also be pilot cities.

Regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia Susan Anderson made the announcement at an Uber summit in Washington.

"Today, over 3.8 million Aussies regularly use Uber as a reliable way to get from A to B, and governments across the country have recognised the important role ridesharing plays in the future of transport for our cities".

Uber Chopper subsidised $1,000 one-way helicopter flights from Batman Park to Flemington Racecourse during last year's Melbourne Cup Carnival.

Although Anderson said the Victorian government has been "highly supportive", Uber's breakthrough into the state was not met without regulatory troubles.

Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, told the conference the electric aircraft are "surprisingly efficient" and similar in cost to the standard UberX vehicle service.

The trial will begin in 2020, with similar trials carried out in Dallas and Los Angeles as Uber prepares to officially launch its flying taxi venture.

Uber has struck agreements with Macquarie Capital, Telstra, Westfield shopping centres owner Scentre Group, and Melbourne Airport to construct "city skyports" to host the Uber Air shuttles.

Called Uber Copter, the service will launch on July 9 and offer helicopter rides between Lower Manhattan and Kennedy International Airport.

"We are delighted that Melbourne has been chosen as the first worldwide trial city for Uber Air".

One of Uber's electric air taxis.

The Uber Air service is created to work in tandem with Uber's vehicle service as a "multimodal" option that helps speed passengers to their destinations.

"Together with Safran Cabin, we've designed for the first time in history, a bespoke aircraft cabin that is truly mission-driven for aerial ridesharing on Uber Air", said John Badalamenti, Uber Elevate's head of design.

The plan is for the electric aircraft, accredited by CASA, to take off and land vertically from a network of landing and take-off pads dubbed "skyports".

Cynthia Whelan, chief strategy officer at Scentre Group, which owns and operates Westfield shopping centres, said the announcement "recognises the strategic locations of our Westfield centres, which are regarded as integral social infrastructure due to their close proximity to customers, communities and transport hubs".

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