Uber and Hyundai partner in aerial ride-sharing
Posted: 7 January 2020 | Sam Mehmet (Intelligent Transport)
The partnership has released a full-scale aircraft concept, which is part of an open design process, a NASA-inspired approach that is said to jump-start innovation by publicly releasing vehicle design concepts so any company can use them to innovate their air taxi models.
Hyundai is the first automotive company to join the Uber Elevate initiative, reportedly bringing automotive-scale manufacturing capability and a track record of mass-producing electric vehicles.
In this partnership, Hyundai plans to produce and deploy the air vehicles, while Uber will provide airspace support services, connections to ground transportation, and customer interfaces through an aerial ride share network. Both parties are said to be collaborating on infrastructure concepts to support take-off and landing for this new class of vehicles.
“Our vision of Urban Air Mobility will transform the concept of urban transportation. We expect Urban Air Mobility (UAM) to vitalise urban communities and provide more quality time to people. We are confident that Uber Elevate is the right partner to make this innovative product readily available to as many customers as possible,” said Jaiwon Shin, Executive Vice President and Head of Hyundai’s UAM Division.
Eric Allison, Head of Uber Elevate, added: “Hyundai is our first vehicle partner with experience of manufacturing passenger cars on a global scale. We believe Hyundai has the potential to build Uber Air vehicles at rates unseen in the current aerospace industry, producing high quality, reliable aircraft at high volumes to drive down passenger costs per trip. Combining Hyundai’s manufacturing muscle with Uber’s technology platform represents a giant leap forward for launching a vibrant air taxi network in the coming years.”
Hyundai and Uber Elevate have developed a PAV (Personal Air Vehicle) model, S-A1, that is said to utilise innovative design processes to optimise electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for aerial ride-sharing purposes. The Elevate initiative allegedly based this process on NASA’s historical approach of putting design concepts out publicly to inspire innovation amongst multiple companies, spurring the development of common research models to investigate novel aerodynamic concepts and catalysing industry progress in wing design, noise, aerodynamics and simulation verification.
The PAV model, S-A1, will reportedly include the following features:
- A cruising speed up to 180 miles/hr (290 km/hr), a cruising altitude of around 1,000-2,000 feet (300 – 600m) above ground, and to fly trips up to 60 miles (100km)
- The Hyundai vehicle will be 100 per cent electric, utilising distributed electric propulsion and during peak hours will require about five to seven minutes for recharging
- Hyundai’s electric aircraft utilises distributed electric propulsion, powering multiple rotors and propellers around the airframe to increase safety by decreasing any single point of failure. Having several, smaller rotors also reduces noise relative to large rotor helicopters with combustion engines, which is very important to cities
- The model is designed to take off vertically, transition to wing-borne lift in cruise, and then transition back to vertical flight to land
- The Hyundai vehicle will be piloted initially, but over time they will become autonomous
- The cabin is designed with four passenger seats, allowing riders to board/disembark easily and avoid the dreaded middle seat with enough space for a personal bag or backpack/rider.