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Even as Tesla’s founder Elon Musk is looking to solve Los Angeles’s traffic problems by going underground, ride-sharing company Uber is looking to go in the opposite direction. According to a CBS Los Angeles news report, at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, last week, Uber’s Chief Products Officer Jeff Holden announced an ambitious UberAir pilot project in Los Angeles in 2020. Holden described it as “ridesharing in the sky.” Their “flying cars” are essentially an electric plane-helicopter hybrid, which they say can zip across Los Angeles in minutes.
Ridesharing in the Skies
Uber plans to have tens of thousands of these flights each day across the city. UberAir hopes to be as affordable to riders as using its current service on the ground. The goal, Holden said, is to make this service less expensive than driving your own car. He wants the service to be ubiquitous by the 2020 Summer Olympics. UberAir plans to have as many as 20 sky ports across Los Angeles where riders can be picked up and dropped off. However, it will start with four locations: LAX, downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Sherman Oaks.
The aircraft, which is battery-powered, has the ability to reach speeds of 150 to 200 miles per hour and travel up to 60 miles on a single charge. The planes will use several small rotors and no combustion engine. Each plane will have a pilot and four passenger seats. Uber has already signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA that allows them to work together on making an aircraft that is safe, viable and able to fly at low altitudes.
What About Safety?
This is the kind of commute every Angeleno dreams about – having the ability to fly over clogged freeways and saving hours spent frustrated and exhausted while stuck in traffic. However, concepts are one thing. And being able to execute them safely is quite another. In fact, Uber has yet to prove that it can safely operate driverless cars on our streets, let alone manage flying air taxis.
There is also the question of liability. Who owns these aircrafts? Uber has always maintained that it is a tech company, not a transportation company. Does this mean the company will be liable for accidents and injuries caused by its pilots or accidents that occur as a result of incompetent operation of the craft or poor maintenance? There are a number of issues our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers are seriously concerned about. We hope there is a thorough vetting process before this plan is put into action.