Melbourne will be the first Australian city to trial Uber Air, an aerial ridesharing service © Uber
Melbourne will be the first Australian city to trial Uber Air, an aerial ridesharing service © Uber

Uber to trial flying taxis in Melbourne

17 June 2019

Uber will begin trialling its flying taxi service – called Uber Air – in Melbourne from 2020.

Australia has been selected as the first market outside of the US to trial Uber Air, the firm’s first aerial ridesharing service.

Uber said its ambition is to open up air mobility and to help alleviate transport congestion on the ground which is a key concern for many cities globally.

Melbourne was named as the first Australian city to trial Uber Air alongside US cities Dallas and Los Angeles at the Uber Elevate summit in Washington DC earlier this month.

Eric Allison, the global head of Uber Elevate, said: “As major cities grow, the heavy reliance on private car ownership will not be sustainable. Uber Air holds enormous potential to help reduce road congestion.

“For example, the 19 kilometre journey from the central business district to Melbourne airport can take anywhere from 25 minutes to around an hour by car in peak hour but with Uber Air this will take around 10 minutes.”

In 2018, the Global Traffic Scorecard by Inrix found Melbourne drivers spent on average 118 hours stuck in traffic with inner city speeds averaging 11mph, ranking the city 17th in the world.

A separate report by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics found increased congestion was also having a financial cost across Australia.

It estimated congestion was costing Australia $16.5bn each year in business time, extra vehicle capacity and additional air pollution. It predicted the cost could rise to over $30bn by 2030.

Susan Anderson, regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia, said: “Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology.

“This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the perfect third launch city for Uber Air. We will see other Australian cities following soon after.”

Robin Scott, assistant treasurer, Government of Victoria, said: “We are delighted that Melbourne has been chosen as the first international trial city for Uber Air. Victoria is a dynamic, innovative tech state and an economy leading the Asia Pacific region in transformative technologies.”

Test flights are due to begin in Melbourne in 2020 and Uber plans for the service to be available commercially from 2023.

Uber also announced partnerships with leading Australian companies, Macquarie, Telstra and Scentre Group to help support the crucial infrastructure and telecommunications necessary to create a successful urban aviation network.

The firm will work with key existing partners including Melbourne Airport on the pilot.

Infrastructure considerations include the development and electrification of skyports that will support vertical takeoff and landing for Uber’s aircraft and assessing network and connectivity requirements to support airspace mobility in cities.

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