Uber wants to bring flying cars to New York City

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Uber wants to fill the New York City skyline with flying cars.
The ride-sharing app is pouring millions of dollars into putting fast, quiet and affordable flying cars into operation — and aims to make New York a backdrop for its futuristic ambitions within five years.
Uber said in a release Tuesday it is working on making commercial use of so-called VTOLs — aircraft capable of “vertical takeoff and landing” — a reality by 2020 in Dallas and Dubai, in time for the Dubai World Fair. However, speaking on a panel at an Uber press event in Dallas, Rob Wiesenthal, chief executive of the Blade helicopter service, confirmed he is a part of working group to explore bringing VTOL transportation to Gotham. “We want to bring VTOL to NYC as quickly as possible and we want the public to see them, trust them and try them and hear them,” Wiesenthal said. “Our goal is in five years that Blade will enable New Yorkers to reduce the time and friction of their commutes on an on-demand basis.”
VTOLs are frequently referred to as flying cars, but they are effectively battery-operated helicopters — and potentially much quieter and cheaper than the gas-powered kind. The question is how quickly they can become a mainstream commuter reality.
Uber says the cost of a VTOL could eventually be as low as $1.32 a mile, in line with the current rate of an UberX car. With VTOLs hitting speeds of 200 mph, a trip from Manhattan to JFK Airport could take as little as 5 minutes, Wiesenthal said.
The idea is to begin operating VTOLs in the city within five years, he said. The Federal Aviation Administration would regulate where VTOLs could fly and land, although questions linger about safety, how long batteries will last and how many passengers VTOLs can carry.
The working group, meanwhile, is set on using VTOLs to tackle problems that have long bedeviled helicopter travel. In the Hamptons, for example, helicopters have been stymied by curfews and protests over noise.
Uber said it’s partnering to build VTOLs with manufacturers including Bell, Aurora, Pipistrel, Embraer and Mooney, and that its working with ChargePoint to develop a charger network. Uber isn’t the only company racing to put cars in the air. Google co-founder Larry Page’s startup Kitty Hawk released a video on Monday that showed one of its VTOLs flying over a lake, hovering about 15 feet in the air, with a rider straddling it like a motorcycle. Uber, whose chief executive Travis Kalanick has lately has been mired in a slew of scandals at the company ranging from sex harassment to allegations of stealing secrets from Google, first revealed its flying-car ambitions last fall.

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