The idea of flying cars is a dream, cutting long commutes and making travelling door to door much easier. But it’s not a new idea, and it was actually invented in the 1940s. Hybrid cars, known as the Aerocar designed by Moulton Taylor, had wings and made use of the airspace above with top speeds of 176km/h, but it's fair to say, the idea never really took off.
In this century, Uber has reaffirmed its flying cars ambitions by hiring former Nasa engineer Mark Moore. Moore has 30 years of experience at Nasa, and becomes the director of engineering for aviation at Uber Elevate. “I can’t think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL market real,” says Moore, who published a white paper on vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (VTOL) back in 2010.
That research inspired Google co-founder Larry Page to finance Silicon Valley startups Zee Aero and Kitty Hawk, which aimed to develop VTOL technology further. Uber, meanwhile, outlined its plans for flying cars in a white paper published last October, one which Moore contributed to.
The company envisions a future in which consumers can take a regular Uber ride to a ‘vertiport’, where flying cars would be able to transport them to another vertiport located near their office. However, it has also outlined what it considers to be the key issues facing the development and deployment of flying cars, such as battery life, noise pollution and vehicle efficiency.
Moore has highlighted a number of non-technical issues too. For instance, he believes flying car companies will have to negotiate with suppliers in order to make the vehicles affordable, as well as campaign for regulators to relax air-traffic restrictions.
“Uber continues to see its role as an accelerant-catalyst to the entire ecosystem, and we are excited to have Mark joining us to work with manufacturers and stakeholders as we continue to explore the use case described in our whitepaper,” says Nikhil Goel, Uber’s head of product for advanced programme.