Hyundai and Uber see cities connected with arial taxis

We called it; flying cars are just around the corner! Welcome to the collaboration of Hyundai and Uber, and the future of Urban Air Mobility
Illustration of a city docking station for UAM and PBV vehicles
Hyundai x Uber is designing a cityscape for the future. Image: Hyundai

Flying into the future

Back in October, we reported the trial run of Uber Eats deliveries by drone. This linked in with the Uber Elevate program. We reported Uber’s plan to launch air taxis by 2023, with planned trials in Dallas and Los Angeles.

What we didn’t know is just how close they are! At CES Hyundai and Uber have confirmed their collaboration. We take a first look at the vision for a cityscape; without cars.

Hyundai debuted the announcement last month – and ever since I have been waiting to get a closer look!

Hyundai PAV Personal Air Vehicle
Hyundai’s PAV can carry up to five people and docks with a Hub via skyport. Image: Hyundai

Hyundai x Uber

This collaboration probably isn’t the first guess I would have made, but makes perfect sense. The South Korean auto manufacturer has been recovering this last year, following a tough few years.

To set themselves apart from the price competition of cheap foreign auto imports, Hyundai have been focusing on electric cars to target the growing eco-conscious market.

With this strategy in mind, expanding that concept to alternative transport seems an obvious next step.

Likewise, Uber has been in for a pretty rough time. The ride-hailing company lost its London license back in November. This followed a spate of bad press, with the tragic death of a passenger in a self-driving Uber in Arizona in 2018.

Uber has also been working to turn things around, and as with Hyundai have been turning to innovation to do so. Launching forward-thinking programs such as Uber Elevate and Uber Air and new expansions like Uber Experiences all tell me that Uber might be down, but they are not out.

Hyundai Future Mobility Vision
The Future Mobility Vision incorporates electric vehicles around central Hubs. Image: Hyundai

Taking to the skies

The vision presented at CES 2020 is one where Hyundai provide the engineering, and Uber the public interface. Both companies are undoubtedly well placed to do so. The ‘Future Mobility Vision’ is based on three solutions.

Urban Air Mobility (UAM): this is a conjunction of small light aircraft called a Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) with ‘urban air mobility services’ to make airspace available. The PAVs use eVOTL engines – electric and hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles.

So yes, in short, that is a big drone which does not require a runway to take off or land and can carry people.

Purpose Built Vehicle (PBV): PBVs are normal ground-based vehicles, but are more like a tram acting as public transport with services such as coffee shops onboard.

Hub: the hub connects the vehicles, acting as a central docking station. PAVs dock via Skyport on top of the hub, and PBVs dock on the ground. The concept is to have a hub as a community space, where passengers can jump on a PBV or PAV and also use as a meeting space.

Will it work?

Hyundai’s PAV design ticks a lot of boxes. It can carry up to five people, and has a cruising speed of 180 mph so would certainly provide a fast transport option. The anticipated flight altitude is 1,000-2,000 feet, so wouldn’t interfere with larger aircraft, and the electric rotors provide a quite transport mode.

Interestingly, Hyundai says their PAV would only need up to seven minutes to recharge, and have a range of 60 miles between each.

The vision is a great one for lots of reasons. It eliminates fuel emissions, encourages public transport and promotes community engagement.

However, whilst it seems that all the technology is there to make this vision work, there needs to be a will (and huge investment) to create such a dramatic change to city infrastructure.

With no commercial production yet underway and minimal testing having been carried out, I think it will be some time before we see if the Future Mobility Vision can be made into a reality.

If and when it is – we will truly be living in cities of the future.

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