This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
Several companies have been trying to build air taxis, Uber is one of them. A new collaborative effort will be one of the most crucial projects in making Uber’s flying taxi dream a reality. Uber’s air taxi program has been coping with various challenges, one of them is the noise level of the air taxis. Now the US Army Research Laboratory and the University of Texas are set to work together to design new rotors for the air taxi program.
It is scheduled to run just long enough for Uber to meet its two-year timeframe for testing the flying taxi program in Dallas, Los Angeles and a yet-to-be-determined international city.
It will also be one of the Army lab’s first major projects at UT since launching a space in Austin in 2016.
Rob McDonald, head of vehicle engineering at Uber Elevate, said building a new rotor technology is the creation of “an entire new industry, and it’s going to be big enough for a lot of people to have a significant role. So rather than do it ourselves, we would rather count on the expertise of others.”
At UT, Army lab officials said collaborating with a high-tech company like Uber would help stretch resources to develop the rotors, which the Army plans to also integrate into their own future air vehicles.
At the center of Uber’s project is making the noise levels of the aircrafts suitable for civilian use, according to 512tech.com. In a white paper highlighting goals for its air taxis, Uber said the vehicles should be “one-half as loud as a medium-sized truck passing a house.”
In order to make that happen, researchers plan to design stacked rotors that travel in the same direction, an evolving concept that they say would decrease noise.
If Uber meets its timeline, the company plans to begin demonstration flights in 2020 and commercial flights in 2023, although it faces regulatory hurdles and other logistical obstacles.
Uber also has to earn the trust of potential customers, a task made more challenging after setbacks the company has experienced with other initiatives. In March, for example, an autonomous car operated by Uber struck and killed a woman on a street in Tempe, Ariz., leading Uber to temporarily suspend the program.
Eventually, Uber envisions all of its systems being connected through its phone app.
The partnership represents an undertaking by the U.S. military to begin working closely with the private tech sector.