Uber And Hyundai Announce Electric Air Taxi Collaboration

By Amit Chowdhry ● January 9, 2020
  • At CES, Hyundai and Uber announced a collaboration to develop Uber Air Taxis for a future aerial rideshare network

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Hyundai Motor Company and Uber announced a collaboration to develop Uber Air Taxis for a future aerial rideshare network. And the companies also unveiled a new full-scale aircraft concept at CES as well.

Hyundai is the first automotive company to join Uber’s Elevate initiative, which is bringing automotive-scale manufacturing capability and a track record of mass-producing electric vehicles. The air vehicle concept Hyundai released was developed in part through Uber’s open design process — which is a NASA-inspired approach that drives innovation by publicly releasing vehicle design concepts so any company can use them to innovate their air taxi models and engineering technologies.

Through the partnership, Hyundai is going to produce and deploy the air vehicles while Uber will provide airspace support services, connections to ground transportation, and customer interfaces through an aerial rideshare network. And both parties are collaborating on infrastructure concepts for supporting take-off and landing for the new class of vehicles.

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“Our vision of Urban Air Mobility will transform the concept of urban transportation,” said Jaiwon Shin, EVP and Head of Hyundai’s Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Division. “We expect UAM to vitalize urban communities and provide more quality time to people. We are confident that Uber Elevate is the right partner to make this innovative product readily available to as many customers as possible.”

As the companies prepared for the announcement, Hyundai worked with Uber Elevate to develop a PAV (Personal Air Vehicle) model called S-A1, which utilizes innovative design processes to optimize electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for aerial ridesharing purposes.

Uber’s Elevate initiative based the process on NASA’s approach of putting design concepts out publicly to inspire innovation from multiple companies by spurring the development of common research models to investigate novel aerodynamic concepts and catalyzing industry progress in wing design, noise, aerodynamics, and simulation verification.

“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,” added Eric Allison, head of Elevate at Uber.

The Hyundai S-A1 model revealed at CES reflects previous eVTOL designs Uber Elevate has released in the following ways:

– It was designed for a cruising speed up to 180 miles/hr, a cruising altitude of around 1,000-2,000 feet (300 – 600 mt) above ground, and to fly trips up to 60 miles

– The Hyundai vehicle will be 100% electric, utilizing distributed electric propulsion, and during peak hours will require about five to seven minutes for recharging

Hyundai’s electric aircraft leverages distributed electric propulsion, powering multiple rotors and propellers around the airframe to increase safety by decreasing any single point of failure. And by having several smaller rotors, it also reduces noise relative to large rotor helicopters with combustion engines. This model was built to take off vertically, transition to wing-borne lift in cruise, and then transition back to vertical flight to land. This vehicle will be piloted initially but will become autonomous over time.

The cabin was also built with 4 passenger seats so riders can board and disembark easily while avoiding the middle seat. And it also has enough space for a personal bag or backpack.

Uber’s Elevate division has a goal of flight demonstrations in 2020 followed by commercial availability to riders in 2023.

Uber has partnerships in place with several manufacturers including Hyundai, Aurora Flight Sciences (subsidiary of Boeing), Bell, Embraer, Joby Aviation, Pipistrel Aircraft, Karem Aircraft and Jaunt Air Mobility. And Uber also signed two Space Act Agreements with NASA one for the development of new Unmanned Traffic Management concepts and Unmanned Aerial Systems and another to explore concepts and technologies for Urban Air Mobility.

In terms of cost, Uber is projecting that an electric vehicle will travel at a speed up to 200mph and eventually after several years in a market, an Uber Elevate ride will cost as much as an UberX trip of the same distance.