Uber wants flying taxis to take off by 2020

It has outlined a number of prototypes

Uber wants flying taxis to take off by 2020

Image: Uber

Taxi app firm Uber has announced plans to have airborne taxis in place within three years.

It has outlined a concept for an urban air mobility network, called 'Elevate', in a white paper published on its website.

It says: "Every day, millions of hours are wasted on the road worldwide. Last year, the average San Francisco resident spent 230 hours commuting between work and home – that's half a million hours of productivity lost every single day.

"In Los Angeles and Sydney, residents spend seven whole working weeks each year commuting, two of which are wasted unproductively stuck in gridlock".

It adds that on-demand aviation has the potential to radically improve mobility - giving people back time lost in daily commutes.

"Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground."

It says a network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically - called VTOL aircraft - will enable rapid transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities.

One of the VTOL aircraft being considered | Image: Uber

The company says the development of such infrastructure will likely have "significant cost advantages" over heavy-infrastructure such as roads, rail, bridges and tunnels.

It has proposed that the re-purposed tops of car parks, existing helipads, and even unused land surrounding motorway interchanges could form the basis of a network of "vertiports" with multiple takeoff and landing pads.

A look at potential "vertiports" in Los Angeles (left) and London (right) | Image: Uber

It says another advantage would be that VTOLs do not need to follow fixed routes.

"Trains, buses, and cars all funnel people from A to B along a limited number of dedicated routes, exposing travelers to serious delays in the event of a single interruption.

“VTOLs, by contrast, can travel toward their destination independently of any specific path, making route-based congestion less prevalent."

Uber says it will be reaching out to cities, vehicle manufacturers, prospective users and community groups to explore the implications of this plan.

Some of the VTOL concepts being considered | Image: Uber

It also plans to examine political, policy, infrastructural, and socio-economic issues that will need to be addressed.

"These will be important to sustainably and inclusively develop vehicles that meet sophisticated consumer demand and are able to operate safely, quietly and reliably in cities."

The company is holding a three-day summit in Texas to raise awareness about the Elevate project.

Uber is in Dublin and 579 other cities worldwide.