Hyundai gets Uber on cloud nine, literally
Air taxi concept model showcased in Las Vegas
If you’re in Vegas, I believe there is enough to keep you amused already. Shiny lights, all-bling jewellery and beaming chrome wheels are said to be present in ample amount to keep your jaw dropped to the ground. But what about seeing something bizarre there. Something so odd that it just fits right in. How about air transport in Vegas - it just fits in the scene, right?
The ongoing Consumer Electronics Show (CES) served as the perfect stage for Uber and Hyundai Motor Company to announce their partnership to develop air taxis. The carmaker has worked closely with Uber’s Elevate team to develop and display its first PAV (Personal Air Vehicle) model, christened - the S-A1, at Las Vegas today.
With the announcement of this partnership, Hyundai becomes the first automaker to join Uber’s Elevate or air transport initiative. This association will see the Korean carmaker produce and deploy the air vehicles and Uber take care of services that follow, including ‘airspace support services, connections to ground transportation, and customer interfaces through an aerial rideshare network.’
“Hyundai is our first vehicle partner with experience of manufacturing passenger cars on a global scale. We believe Hyundai has the potential to build Uber Air vehicles at rates unseen in the current aerospace industry, producing high quality, reliable aircraft at high volumes to drive down passenger costs per trip. Combining Hyundai’s manufacturing muscle with Uber’s technology platform represents a giant leap forward for launching a vibrant air taxi network in the coming years,” said Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate.
The Hyundai S-A1 showcased at the CES boasts of some remarkable feats. As per the carmaker, the S-A1 takes the shape of an (eVTOL) aircraft, designed to achieve vertical take-off and landing. The aerial vehicle is capable of attaining cruising speeds of 180 miles/hr (290 km/hr) while hovering at an altitude of around 1,000-2,000 feet.
The e in the eVTOL denotes full electric propulsion. And that means, like most electric vehicles even the pilot of this VOTL will face range-anxiety as the S-A1 can fly trips just up to 60 miles (100 km). Fortunately, the recharge time requires only about five to seven minutes, allowing the drivers to let ease on the sweating and continue to provide ride-sharing services. However, in the longer run, pilots might have to sweat a bit more as Hyundai claims these vehicles will receive full autonomous driving soon.
The usual struggle for shoulder-room and leg-room in the back seat of Hyundais hasn’t been carry forwarded here as seating is restricted to four. This seating layout not only helps gain more space inside but also benefit passengers with easy ingress and egress.
However, just like drones, the typical problem with these aerial vehicles is the sound of the rotors. It is like honeybees making their hive inside your eardrum. And imagine multiple such vehicles in the air, operating until the day’s end. Thankfully, Hyundai’s solution to this problem involves, erm…..rotors, but smaller ones, all around its framework. This solves the dual purpose of reducing rotor noise while also decreasing any single point of failure, like helicopters with their larger blades.
In a bid to invite more OEMs to develop such aerial vehicles, Uber seems to have taken the NASA approach. That implies the ride-sharing firm has released these vehicle design concepts publicly, accelerating innovation for other companies to create their own version, using these tried-and-tested concepts as a reference and innovate further.
With regards to the availability of this aerial vehicle, Uber has announced a goal of flight demonstrations in 2020 and the Elevate ride-sharing platform to be commercially available by 2023.