Uber to start flying taxi trials in Melbourne in 2020

Flying taxis could soon be operating from mega skyports on top of shopping malls and cost less than a real taxi.

Uber has a plan in store for Melbourne and announced on Wednesday it plans to start trials there as early as 2020.

Susan Anderson, regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia, made the announcement at Uber's global Elevate (Uber Air) Summit in Washington.

"Victoria is so excited about this, to be third pilot city and it's going to be transformational for Melbourne."

Australia is the first country after America to be part of the trial. Dallas and Los Angeles have already been announced as taking part in the Uber Elevate project.

What about New Zealand? There are no plans at the moment, but depending on how the trials go in Melbourne, Auckland is in Uber's sights.

"Auckland is a fantastic city to consider Uber Air," Anderson said.

"We know that congestion can be a challenge getting into Auckland from surrounding areas and that is the kind of problem Uber is looking to solve."

Sketches of a small vehicle with propellers.
Photo credit: Supplied/Uber

Design for the Vertical Take Off and Landing ( VTOL) vehicles is still underway, but Uber has committed to making them battery powered with a desired range of 100 kilometres.

It also wants to help build mega skyports which would be capable of handling 1000 take off and landings every hour.

"Uber Air will operate from sky ports using existing infrastructure, for instance, the top of Westfield Centres or infrastructure that is not utilised, like skyscrapers or old car parks," Anderson said.

The company hopes commercial operations for it's Uber Elevate division will start by 2023.

A flying taxi takes off from a skyport.
Photo credit: Supplied/Uber

Uber claims congestion currently costs Australia AU$16.5 billion (NZ$17.4b) annually and is projected to increase to around $30 billion by 2030.

An AA congestion report for Auckland found drivers spend 80 hours stuck in motorway traffic each year. Another 2017 report from NZIER estimated congestion costs the city up to NZ$1.3 billion a year in lost productivity.

The trial will be based at Melbourne Airport but Uber is also partnering with Australian property companies Scentre, which operates Westfield shopping malls, and Macquarie.

Tech company Telstra will also be part of the trial.

"Since we entered the market in 2012, Australians have embraced Uber wholeheartedly. Today, over 3.8 million Aussies regularly use Uber as a reliable way to get from A to B,"  Anderson said.

In 2018, Kiwis travelled more than 83 million kilometres in Ubers, the equivalent of travelling to the moon and back 108 times.

At the Washington Uber Elevate summit, Head of Uber Elevate Eric Allison outlined a vision where he saw the cost per seat of using air taxis becoming as economical as owning a private car.