Hyundai to make flying taxis for Uber

Hyundai S-A1 air transport concept

Hyundai is the first carmaker to join Uber's air taxi project, which also counts Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences among its partner firms.

The first of these solutions is dubbed Urban Air Mobility (UAM) and consists of a Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) that has been co-developed with ride-hailing giant Uber.

While it already has Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences as one of its partner firms, Hyundai is the first auto maker to team up with the ride-hailing company on a flying vehicle project. For now, range is 60 miles.The Hyundai-Uber partnership could see Hyundai build the vehicles, while Uber takes care of interfaces, software back-end, airspace support, and connections to ground transportation.

South Korean automaker Hyundai unveiled its concept flying auto, a full-scale prototype that is set to be mass-produced under a partnership it has struck with Uber Technologies Inc.

"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", said Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, in a statement.

The four-passenger S-A1 is created to fly at altitudes between 1,000 and 2,000 feet AGL.

It connects with UAM at the "Hub", the third piece of the puzzle that could be considered as a futuristic version of a train station or bus station but for Hyundai's flying vehicles and new ground transportation.

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Uber wants to start test flights for Uber Elevate in 2020, with the goal of finally launching service in 2023 in Dallas, Texas, and Los Angeles. "We expect UAM to vitalize urban communities and provide more quality time to people". They're sharing work on infrastructure concepts for these vehicles.

Hyundai's electric aircraft utilizes distributed electric propulsion, powering multiple rotors and propellers around the airframe to increase safety by decreasing any single point of failure.

While Bell has partnered with Uber Elevate since 2017, the design of the vehicle was Bell's own. Having several, smaller rotors also reduces noise relative to large rotor helicopters with combustion engines, which is obviously rather important in cities.

The S-A1 can be piloted, but over time the two companies say they want the air taxis to be autonomous. Hyundai calls the Hub a "mobility space", but it's like the tiniest little airport created to fit in tighter city spaces. Design-wise, it has been optimised for vertical take off and landing, thus negating the need for a runway.

The cabin is designed with four passenger seats, allowing riders to board / disembark easily and avoid the dreaded middle seat with enough space for a personal bag or backpack / rider.

Uber has signed Space Act Agreements with NASA for the development of new unmanned traffic management concepts and unmanned aerial systems, and another to explore concepts and technologies for urban air mobility such as the Hyundai S-A1.

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