Uber Will Have You in a Flying Taxi Sooner Than You Thought
The popular ride sharing app has not been profitable in eight years, but they’re going ahead with their prototype electric helicopters thanks to a new CEO.
The helicopters, which look more like giant drone devices, are supposed to be “community friendly” and will allow travelers in busy cities to look vertically when it comes to getting where they want to go. And since it’s Uber, there’s still the option for ride sharing that helicopter jaunt with a friendly stranger.
Uber Air will see a fleet of self-driving flying taxis be released in the next two years, according to to the new CEO of the company, Dara Khosrowshahi, who wants to make that vertical view of transportation into a reality.
Founded in 2009, Uber is a ride-sharing app that uses online payments to hire an individual to take you from point A to point B. Its use has hurt taxis, which are much more expensive but has been attacked as being unfair to the drivers who don’t earn as much as the taxi drivers would. Uber drivers use their own car. As such, Uber doesn’t really own anything besides the app.
Recently, the company has been testing out the possibility of self-driving cars, but in March of this year a woman was killed by a self-driving Uber in Arizona. It appears that this was the first death involving a self-driving car.
The 48-year-old Dara Khosrowshahi was born in Tehran, Iran in 1969 and his family fled in 1978 before the Revolution. His wealthy parents founded an investment company that was involved in everything from pharmaceuticals to packaging. After his family fled first to France and then to the United States, the company was nationalized. After his family moved in with an uncle in New York, Khosrowshahi earned a degree in electrical engineering from Brown and later worked in investment banking.
In 2005, after directing his bank to purchase Expedia, he became its CEO where he became one of the highest paid CEOs in the States and saw massive expansion. In August of this year, he took over as CEO of Uber. While Khosrowshahi lost around $184 million in stock options from Expedia by leaving before a previously struck 2020 deadline, he was reportedly given $200 million to take over at the app.
During the election of 2016, he donated to the corrupt Hillary Victory Fund and the Democratic National Committee while criticizing Trump. One of Khosrowshahi’s uncles, who also fled Iran as one of those poor refugees had enough money to settle in Vancouver, Canada and start the electronics retailer Future Shop.
After the failed massacre at YouTube by the Iranian-born Nasim Aghdam, Khosrowshahi tweeted about “ending gun violence.”
Both Khosrowshahi and Uber’s chief product officer, Jeff Holden, have been giving introductions to the fleet.
The use of their own vehicles is a strange departure, since they don’t even own the cars hailed by Uber users to begin with. Said the CEO:
“We want to create the network around those vehicles so that regular people can take these taxis in the air for longer distances when they want to avoid traffic at affordable prices.”
As to what “affordable prices” are, it’s tough to say. If you want to hire a helicopter for a 12 minute flight tour over New York City, you’ll be set back more than $200 per person.
Holden stresses that the drone-o-copters will be “community friendly” and will not create the same trouble that normal helicopters would. So, while it would still have stacked rotors for lift, its propellers would run off of electricity instead of diesel to make them more quiet and affordable. The initial taxis, which are still in the design phase, will be piloted but the goal is to remove the pilot and use the extra space for an extra butt, putting the price down even lower.
“One of the key tenets of this technology is for us to have four riders in each vehicle. So, essentially, the cost per ride goes down. The combination of mass market and sharing, which is really what Uber is all about, can bring this to the masses, can make it affordable for normal people.”
As for concerns about autonomous helicopters murdering victims, CEO Khosrowshahi says that he’s conducting a “top-to-bottom audit” of the self-driving car accident and that the program will not be shutting down.
I’ll let someone else try it out before me, though.
Sources: Uber, Wikipedia, CBS