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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.

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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.

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.

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

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)


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‘A deeply disappointing moment’: Trump’s new national security adviser is ‘big fan’ of John Bolton

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President Donald Trump named Robert C. O’Brien as national security adviser on Wednesday even though his worldview is similar to that of former National Security Adviser John Bolton.

“I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O’Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor,” the president announced in a tweet.

O'Brien's appointment comes a week after the firing of Bolton, who was known to clash with Trump because of his hawkish foreign policy positions.

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Black woman confronts racist tow truck driver over slurs: ‘I bet you this goes viral’

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A Massachusetts tow truck driver was caught on camera last weekend hurling racist abuse at a black man.

The woman, identified online as Nene Judge'mayo, shared video of the incident Sept. 14 with a driver from Robert Towing in Brighton.

"Because of your f*cking n*gger husband," says the driver, whom she identified as Jeff, as he walked toward his truck.

The woman confronts the driver about the racial slur, and the driver confirms that's what he said and then pulls out his own phone to record the incident.

"Look me up -- my last video of a white man went viral, of the motorcycle girl that hit the news," she tells the driver. "I bet you this goes viral, too."

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Christian conservatives are giving Americans an ‘allergic reaction’ to religion: researchers

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The number of Americans identifying as atheists is increasing -- and recent social science research suggests that the Christian Right is playing a key role in making that happen.

As reported by Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight, new research has found that distaste for Trump-loving Christian conservatism has not just turned some Americans off from individual churches but from religion altogether.

"As recently as the early 1990s, less than 10 percent of Americans lacked a formal religious affiliation, and liberals weren’t all that much likelier to be nonreligious than the public overall," FiveThirtyEight notes. "Today, however, nearly one in four Americans are religiously unaffiliated. That includes almost 40 percent of liberals — up from 12 percent in 1990, according to the 2018 General Social Survey."

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