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Meet George Jetson: Uber sees flying commuters in 10 years

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Flying commuters like George Jetson could be whizzing to work through the sky less than 10 years from now, according to ride-services provider Uber, which believes the future of transportation is literally looking up.

Uber Technologies Inc released a white paper on Thursday envisioning a future in which commuters hop onto a small aircraft, take off vertically and within minutes arrive at their destinations. The flyers would eventually be unmanned, according to the company.

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It sounds like the opening sequence to “The Jetsons”, the 1962 U.S. cartoon about a future filled with moving sidewalks, robot housekeepers and spaceflight, but Uber sees flying rides as feasible and eventually affordable.

Uber already offers helicopter rides to commuters in Brazil. The company plans to convene a global summit early next year to explore on-demand aviation, in which small electric aircraft could take off and land vertically to reduce congestion and save time for long-distance commuters, and eventually city dwellers.

Others have also envisioned such aircraft, akin to a helicopter but without the noise and emissions. Vertical take off and landing aircraft (VTOL) have been studied and developed for decades, including by aircraft makers, the military, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Uber is already exploring self-driving technology, hoping to slash costs by eliminating the need for drivers in its core business of on-demand rides. On-demand air transport marks a new frontier, set squarely in the future.

Uber’s vision, detailed in a 97-page document, argues that on-demand aviation will be affordable and achievable in the next decade assuming effective collaboration between regulators, communities and manufacturers.

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Ultimately, using VTOLs for transport could be less expensive than owning a car, Uber predicted.

Such on-demand VTOL aircraft would be “optionally piloted,” Uber said, where autonomous technology takes over the main workload and the pilot is relied on for situational awareness. Eventually, the aircraft will likely be fully automated, Uber said.

Hurdles include battery technology. Batteries must come down in cost and charge faster, become more powerful and have longer lifecycles.

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Regulatory hurdles must also be solved such as certification by aviation regulators as well as infrastructure needs, such as more takeoff and landing cites.

Uber plans to reach out to stakeholders within the next six months to explore the implications of urban air transport and share ideas before hosting a summit in early 2017 to explore the issues and solutions and help accelerate urban air transportation.

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(Reporting By Alexandria Sage; Editing by David Gregorio)


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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Audience breaks into applause as Vindman explains why he’s not afraid of testifying against Trump

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Republican efforts to undermine Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman apparently failed to persuade the audience in the impeachment hearing room.

The National Security Council staffer was showered with applause after reading the closing portions of his opening statement for a second time at the request of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY).

"Can you read the last paragraph for me again, the second-to-last one, can you read that again for me?" Maloney said. "I think the American public deserves to have it again."

Vindman agreed, and said his father would probably appreciate that.

"Dad, my sitting here today in the U.S. Capitol, talking to our elected officials, is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family," Vindman said. "Do not worry, I'll be fine for telling the truth."

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Schiff gives Republicans a lesson on fact witnesses after they complain officials haven’t used the word ‘bribery’

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As the impeachment inquiry into President Trump's alleged attempts to pressure Ukraine's government into investigating his political rivals continues, Democrats have shifted to characterizing Trump's actions as "bribery" to describe how he allegedly offered Ukraine military aid on the condition that its government investigate the Bidens.

In a bid to counter the Democrats’ narrative, some Republicans have pointed out that none of the witnesses have used the word “bribery” during the impeachment inquiry’s hearings. Today, House Intelligence Committee chairman Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) took a moment to clarify why that is.

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‘I did my job’: Lt. Col Vindman fends off Jim Jordan’s disrespectful attack on his service

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Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a national security aide, pushed back on suggestions made by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) that he failed to do his job correctly when he reported President Donald Trump's alleged attempted bribery of Ukraine's president.

At a House impeachment hearing, Jordan asked Vindman why he had gone to a attorney for an advice on Trump's behavior after he was unable to report it to a supervisor.

"You not only didn't go to your boss... you went straight to your lawyer," Jordan said.

"I did my core function, which is coordination," Vindman explained. "I spoke to the appropriate people within the inner-agency and then circling back around, [my attorney] told me not to talk to anybody."

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