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Uber shows latest flying taxi concept, outlines business plan

by Justin King

After falling behind in autonomous cars, Uber has doubled down on its plan to lead a revolution in aerial mobility.

Uber has revealed a new flying taxi concept and outlined its plan to take a leading role in transitioning the technology from sci-fi fantasy to commercial reality.

Known as eCRM-003, the latest concept showcases technology being considered by Uber and developed by partner companies. Like previous ideas, the new concept is an electric aircraft capable of vertical take-off and landing (e-VTOL).

The eCRM-003 includes several design features that are likely to carry through to future demonstration prototypes, showcasing counter-rotating propellers and lightweight electric motors. Unlike earlier designs, the new aircraft features large pods that relocate potentially dangerous batteries outside of the passenger fuselage.

Uber revealed the new concept at its second Elevate Summit, an annual event that highlights progress towards an ultimate goal of commercializing a fleet of autonomous electric flying taxis in city centers. After botching its attempt to lead the shift toward autonomous cars, the ride-hailing company appears to have doubled down on its even bigger ambition to avoid street-level traffic altogether.

The plan centers around significant regulatory changes that have not yet been realized. The business model will not work unless the Federal Aviation Administration creates new laws that allow passengers to be carried aloft in aircraft that are flown autonomously. Such changes are unlikely to be implemented until the safety of such systems can be effectively demonstrated and validated. Perhaps more importantly, an entirely different air-traffic control framework will be required to support a swarm of autonomous air-taxis buzzing around population centers.

Uber will announce more details of its plan during the second day of the ongoing Elevate Summit.