Uber to trial its air taxis in Melbourne

Uber Elevate set to take off in Australia with flying taxi trial in Melbourne

Uber Elevate set to take off in Australia with flying taxi trial in Melbourne

Uber today announced Melbourne as the first worldwide test hub for Uber Air, a proposed ride-sharing service allowing commuters to hop on an electric aircraft and blow raspberries at the traffic below.

A number of aviation companies are now prototyping vertical take-off and land (VTOL) aircraft - essentially helicopters - to be used as part of the Uber Air service.

"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".

Regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia Susan Anderson made the announcement at an Uber summit in Washington.

Testing is set to begin in 2020, with further testing allegedly happening in Dallas and Los Angeles in 2023.

Last year, the company met with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to discuss the regulatory and safety issues for Uber Air.

As TechCrunch reports, Uber's head of Elevate, Eric Allison, gave a presentation Tuesday about how the company expects the economics of electric helicopter services should make it cheaper than owning a auto, and just as cheap as ordering an Uber X within a few years.

Uber is certainly not the only company racing to take over the skies.

Uber has struck agreements with Macquarie Capital, Telstra, Westfield shopping centres owner Scentre Group, and Melbourne Airport to construct "city skyports" to host the Uber Air shuttles.

Uber has proposed using vehicle park roofs - including those of shopping centres - and existing helipads to run the service.

It would not be the first time Uber has offered an air service in Melbourne.

"The closest equivalent technology in use today is the helicopter", the paper said.

This calculus has something to do with "autonomous scale manufacturing" of the helicopters, and increased use of them for heli-pooling.

Victorian Government Assistant Treasurer Robin Scott said the Uber Air trial plays up the state's leadership in "transformative technologies".

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

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".