CES or Consumer Electronics Show 2020 in Las Vegas is currently underway and one of the first few headliners of the show is Uber and Hyundai announcing their new partnership to develop new full-scale air taxis, of which a mockup will be presented at the show.
In this partnership with Hyundai, the Korean automaker will “produce and deploy air vehicles” while Uber will “provide airspace support services, connections to ground transportation and customer interfaces through an aerial ride share network. Both parties are collaborating on infrastructure concepts to support take-off and landing for this new class of vehicle.”
This idea is by no means a new one, in fact, Uber Elevate has been around since 2016 but the ride sharing giant just couldn’t get the idea off the ground (pun intended). However, at that time there were a few market feasibility barriers that stood in its way.
One of those barriers was battery technology. Electric propulsion is the preferred propulsion choice for the Vertical Take-Off Landing (VTOL) aircraft. But the specific energy output of batteries today is insufficient for long range commutes. Further, battery charge times (which also determines operational idle time) are too slow to support high-frequency ridesharing operations, said Uber back in 2016.
Four years on and Hyundai figures they’ve cracked it with their S-A1 Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) which utilises VTOL technology and distributed electric propulsion. On paper the fully-electric S-A1 is designed for cruising speeds of up to 290km/h at an altitude of between 300-600 metres. Hyundai goes on to say that recharging the batteries during peak hours will only take between five to seven minutes.
Hyundai says the four-seater S-A1 will initially be piloted but will eventually transition to become autonomous. Uber’s goal is to have the Elevate program commercially viable by 2023.