Sick of the daily commute by car or train? Then you’ll be happy to hear that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has predicted that we’ll all be traveling in flying cars before the end of the next decade. “There will be people flying around Dallas, Texas,” Khosrowshahi said at the Digital Life Design (DLD) tech conference in Munich last week, “I think it’s going to happen within the next ten years.”
Uber is serious about its flying cars concept, which it is calling UberAir. The ride-sharing company has teamed up with NASA to develop traffic concepts that would allow for safe regular flights of autonomous aircraft.
The company is also working alongside aircraft, infrastructure and real estate partners to create fixed routes between key cities. Uber imagines customers being able to enjoy fast, safe flights both in and around cities at the push of a button to operate fixed routes between city hubs.
UberAIR frees up city streets
Uber is convinced the UberAIR Concept can help the problem of gridlocked and congested city traffic. Khosrowshahi has said they will do this in a variety of ways. First, they will move towards a fleet of fully electric vehicles, with a focus on autonomous taxis. However, due to the need to create highly detailed 3D maps of target cities, and improve the necessary sensors, this technology is still at least 15 years away. In the meantime, some of the congestion can be lifted by turning their attention skyward and working on bringing UberAIR to life.
Khosrowshahi steps into a company in disarray
The DLD conference was the first public appearance for Khosrowshahi who started at Uber in August last year. The ex-Expedia boss has a clear task ahead of him to turn Uber around after a year of trauma including being banned in London and claims of a culture of sexual abuse within the company.
“We are now going from growth at all costs to responsible growth."
Khosrowshahi used the conference to talk up Uber East, saying it will become the biggest food delivery service in the world by the end of the year and that once Uber is operating back in London it will be the chance to push an electric car focus. “We are now going from growth at all costs to responsible growth,” he said.
Taxi drivers protested outside the conference hall. In an open letter to Uber signed by Munich based taxi drivers, despatch operators, taxi companies and individuals who they claim Uber represents the “the dark side of digitalization” and embodies an “institutionalized infringement of the law”. The signatories of the letter had asked the organizers of DLD to uninvite Khosrowshahi stating his presence would “fleck a dark stain” on the event. Steffi Czerny, a representative of DLD responded that she will not uninvite Khosrowshahi but rather wants to “promote a controversial discussion and involve the main drivers of the change in a dialogue.”