Uber eyes the skies

Despite skeptics insisting on calling it an electrical airplane, Uber would rather call its latest prototypes Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) vehicles. Jalopnik has just reported the ride-hailing innovator’s deal with NASA to develop VTOLs. Tests are expected to start by 2020.

As for flying vehicles powered by electricity, there is skepticism. Andrew J. Hawkins of The Verge put it best in citing an interesting observation about Uber’s promotional video for the vehicle. “Despite the presence of these whirling blades [from the plane helicopter hybrid], no one’s hair moves at all.” Green screen is good for saving costs on shooting promotional clips with the potential of going viral. But it can dampen the enthusiasm as well needed in the clip’s closing tagline – “Closer than you think.”

For readers familiar with some articles published here at FreightWaves, we have often pointed out how in transportation, freight and logistics, the company that can deliver on their promises the fastest closes the deal and rakes in the profit.

That analogy can be used here in the planned VTOL project. It’s been a year since this plan was introduced to the public. The convenience of what could be is still an idea that “faces significant hurdles” as opposed to an actual, tangible technology.

Felton was more skeptical about the feasibility of a VTOL being “two years away.” But, decision-makers from Los Angeles and NASA are already involved in Uber’s latest initiative and there will be plenty of people – skeptics and naysayers included – that will give this VTOL effort a second look.

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