Melbourne to trial electric flying taxi service, Uber Air

Corey Johnson

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.

The first test city, originally planned to be Dubai, will now be Melbourne, Australia, as the company announced today.

So, why Melbourne? It's not Australia's largest or most cosmopolitan city, though it's reasonably close on both counts.

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

Susan Anderson, regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia, said Melbourne was selected for its "unique demographic and geospatial factors", but "we will see other Australian cities following soon after".

It's expected that a 19km trip from the CBD to Melbourne Airport will take around 10 minutes with Uber Air, versus up to an hour by vehicle.

"Uber Air holds enormous potential to help reduce road congestion".

While the dream of door-to-door air taxi services lives on, it seems Uber is now planning to operate its intra-city flights between Melbourne Airport and major shopping centres around the city.

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"This, coupled with Melbourne's unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the flawless third launch city for Uber Air".

The air taxis will ultimately be able to carry people across cities for no more than the price of a regular taxi service, and Uber expects a 19km ride from Melbourne Airport to the CBD would take just 10 minutes. Uber Copter will also include pickup and drop-off vehicle service to either the heliport near the Staten Island Ferry or to a helipad near Terminal 8 at Kennedy airport.

Several companies are developing flying taxis as a future mode of transportation.

"But helicopters are too noisy, inefficient, polluting and expensive for mass-scale use".

"In the coming years, with Uber Air, we want to make it possible for people to push a button and get a flight", Uber Elevate head Eric Allison added.

Macquarie's role would be around "the development and electrification of the skyports that will support" Uber's air taxis.

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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