Taking It To The Next Level: Uber And Airbus Are Building Self Flying Cars

We’ve been reading about self-driving cars for a few years now and it’s pretty clear that they will become a reality soon.

However, recently, it has come to my attention that Uber and Airbus are kicking it up a notch. As you can tell from the title of this article, they are indeed building self-flying cars.

Imagine this: in a few years, we will be able to travel just like The Jetsons.

The Problem


People spend way too much time just sitting in traffic and commuting between home and work. This does not apply only to the US, as one might think, but to different parts of the world as well.

At the end of October 2016, Uber released a lengthy white paper, called Elevate, in which they addressed this issue and their plan.

Wouldn’t you like to turn your two-hour daily drive in a 15-minute trip? With Uber’s on-demand air transportation service, you will be able to do that.

How Uber And Airbus Want to Improve Urban Mobility with Self-Flying Cars

Uber has come up with the idea of a small, electric aircraft, called VTOL. The abbreviation stands for Vertical Take-Off and Landing.

However, don’t be fooled.

Uber does not plan to build these aircrafts itself. Instead, they’re providing the industry (both private and public sectors) with all the details so they can make this work. Also, they’re planning on discussing with stakeholders so they can speed up the process.

After all, you can’t deny the influence of a $70 billion company.

As we already know, the problem with making self-driving cars a reality is not building them, but dealing with the infrastructure.

When it comes to self-flying cars, air traffic control can be an even more serious issue, especially in dense urban environments. However, Uber is optimistic.

In their white paper, the following issues have been discussed:

  • The certification process;
  • Battery technology;
  • Vehicle efficiency;
  • Vehicle performance and reliability;
  • Air traffic control;
  • Cost and affordability;
  • Safety;
  • Aircraft noise;
  • Emissions;
  • Vertiport/vertistop infrastructure in cities;
  • Pilot training.

Pilot training is included because at first, the aircrafts will be operated by a pilot. Later on, they will be autonomous.

Uber expects that in approximately five years, the market will produce the first electric flying car. According to their plan, it will be able to fly 100 miles at 150 mph and it will carry multiple passengers and a pilot.

Not only that, but Uber predicts that going to work with a self-flying car will be cheaper than owning a car. They admit that, in the beginning, it will be kind of expensive, but the costs will cut down as more people share their ride.

It would seem that Airbus anticipated Uber’s move since their fully electric self-flying car prototype will be ready by the end of 2017. And by 2020, their plan is to have it on the market, fully functioning.

Their project is called Vahana and is designed as a flying vehicle which will have space for one person.

Since it’s going to be autonomous, Airbus says that their aircraft will turn out to be light and small. In return, this will reduce manufacturing costs significantly.

Even though Vahana is a prototype, the company has thought about safety. The electric flying vehicle comes with a ballistic parachute which works at low altitudes.

Mobility Is Air Borne


The truth is, too much time is spent in traffic. People desperately need a reliable solution which will help them avoid rush hours.

It’s clear now that self-flying cars are even more desirable than self-driving cars. However, they both serve a different purpose, so we can’t have one without the other.

Uber was the first company to take a stand and address the transportation issues we have today. They took this even further and came up with a solution. There may be some companies who are secretly working on autonomous flying vehicles, as Airbus was until recently.

It will certainly be interesting to see the evolution of the flying cars concept and how it will change the world we live in.

Do you believe in the idea of self-flying cars? Let me know down in the comments your thoughts.

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Philipp Kandal