After upending the taxi market with its ride-hailing service, Uber is now aiming to begin its attempt at dominating the skies by 2020.
The embattled ride-hailing company announced ambitious plans for an on-demand network of electric aircraft at the Uber Elevate Summit in Dallas.
Uber chief product officer Jeff Holden told the summit that urban aviation was a “natural next step for Uber” and it expected to deploy its flying taxis in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Dubai by 2020.
Uber’s flying taxis will be small, electric aircraft that take-off and land vertically (VTOLs), with zero emissions and quiet enough to operate in cities.
Uber estimated a trip across the Californian city of San Francisco would take 15 minutes by air, compared with two hours by road.
In the long term, Uber expected the cost of taking flying taxis would fall below car ownership.
Uber set out its vision for flying cars as an “affordable form of daily transportation for the masses” in a white paper in October 2016.
The company is working with Hillwood Properties to make four vertiports — VTOL hubs with multiple take-off and landing pads, and charging infrastructure — in Dallas starting next year, Mr Holden said.
Uber, valued at $68 billion, has also teamed up with companies such as Bell Helicopter, Aurora, Pipistrel, Mooney and Embraer to make the flying taxis.
The company has also partnered with US electric vehicle charging station maker ChargePoint Inc. Uber is working on developing an exclusive charger for its network.
Uber, which has partnered with the Dubai Government, expects to conduct passenger flights as part of the World Expo 2020 in Dubai.
The ride-hailing service has recently been rocked by a number of setbacks, including detailed accusations of sexual harassment from a former female employee and a video showing chief executive Travis Kalanick harshly berating an Uber driver.