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Australian cities fight for flying car trials by 2020

Donna Coutts, June 14, 2018 8:43AM Kids News

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Concept vehicles for Uber's flying car project, UberAIR. media_cameraConcept vehicles for Uber's flying car project, UberAIR.

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An Australian city could have flying cars in just two years.

Politicians and transport officials from Melbourne and Sydney are meeting with Uber this week in a battle to be the first to host the futuristic* transport.

If Uber selects Australia for the UberAIR program, the flying vehicles could be demonstrated* here as soon as 2020, with cars for hire by the public from 2023.

Aviation product head Nikhil Goel said the UberAIR team are considering Sydney and Melbourne because of their size, population density* and traffic problems.

“Both cities are set to double in the next 30 years,” Mr Goel said. “And in congestion* costs, both Sydneysiders and Melbournites spend a massive amount of time (in traffic) across the year.”

He said a two-hour trip by car in Sydney, for example, could be a 20-minute trip by UberAIR.

Uber needs three cities around the world with populations more than 2 million people to test their flying cars. Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles in the US were the first two cities selected.

An Uber prototype for its flying car project, UberAIR. media_cameraAn Uber prototype for its flying car project, UberAIR.

Ideal cities to demonstrate the flying transport are those with high population density, which means lots of people living close together. Heavy traffic, particularly to a big airport, also make for a good demonstration city, because it will show how useful flying cars can be.

The populations of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth are all more than 2 million, but the larger size, higher population density and heavier traffic of Melbourne and Sydney make these the best Australian choices.

Uber unveiled* its flying car aircraft at its Uber Elevate Summit*, which shows off prototypes — ideas models — for its fleet* of airborne* taxis.

UberAIR vehicles would be piloted at first, with the long-term aim for the aircraft to fly autonomously. media_cameraUberAIR vehicles would be piloted at first, with the long-term aim for the aircraft to fly autonomously.

The flying cars, which the company hopes to introduce to riders in two to five years, will conduct vertical* takeoffs and landings from landing pads on rooftops or the ground. Uber predicts these landing pads — called skyports — will be able to handle 200 takeoffs and landings an hour, or one every 24 seconds. At first, the flying cars will be piloted, but the company aims for the aircraft to fly autonomously*.

Uber AIR landing pads, called skyports, could be on rooftops. media_cameraUber AIR landing pads, called skyports, could be on rooftops.

The prototypes* look more like drones than helicopters, with four rotors, or sets of spinning blades, on wings. Uber say that will make them safer than helicopters, which work with one rotor. They’ll fly 300-600m above ground and will be quieter than a helicopter, producing half the noise of a truck driving past a house.

Here’s a 2017 video about other flying car ideas

Uber, which is partnering with NASA on developing the new UberAIR service, has plenty of competition. Kitty Hawk, an autonomous flying taxi company, unveiled its latest plane called Cora in March. The company is working with the government of New Zealand to launch its air taxis. Another competitor, Airbus, performed the first successful flight of its autonomous flying car in February.

Uber says passengers will begin paying the same as its top-level Uber Black road service over the same distance, but once the service has enough passengers, the cost will decrease to the basic Uber X rates for the same trip.

HERE’S AN EARLIER STORY: Uber’s flying cars

IDEAL TRIAL CITIES HAVE:

  • Population above 2 million: Australian cities with the minimum population are Sydney (5.1 million), Melbourne (4.9 million), Brisbane (2.4 million), Perth (2 million).
  • Options for passengers to switch to other public transport, bicycles or walking to get all the way home or to exactly where they need to be once they get off the UberAIR vehicle at the skyport.
  • Stable environment: lack of extreme weather, temperature and high altitude*.
  • Very spread out, so that travelling long distances quickly is very helpful to residents.
  • A government, businesses and residents with enthusiasm for the project!

GLOSSARY

futuristic: using new technology or design

demonstrated: showed

congestion: crowding

population density: how many people live in an particular space

unveiled: showed off or launched

summit: meeting

fleet: group of vehicles

airborne: in the air

vertical: straight up

autonomously: drives itself

prototypes: model to show an idea

high altitude: up high above sea level

LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY

QUICK QUIZ

1. What are three factors that make Sydney and Melbourne possible trial cities?

2. Name the two US cities who have already been chosen as trial cities.

3. How much traffic will the skyports be able to handle?

4. At what heights are the UberAIR vehicles expected?

5. List at least three things that make a city good for this trial.

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

Design your own flying car! Your design should include labels showing all of the important parts and some features that will make it fun, safe and comfortable to fly.

Time: Allow 25 minutes

Extension: Plan and then write a story that start with: “I knew that my first time driving my brand new flying car would be exciting, but I didn’t think it would be the start of an amazing adventure.”

Time: Allow 30 minutes

Curriculum Links: English, Design and Technologies

VCOP ACTIVITY

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?

QUESTION: Can you think of any problems that could be caused by hundreds of flying cars flying around a city? Do you have solutions for those problems?

Use full sentences to explain your answer.

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