[LINK] AFR: UberAir Ride-Sharing to be Piloted, then Autonomous

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Tue Nov 13 10:14:55 AEDT 2018

[The arrogance of GenY corporations is breathtaking:
 >"We're trying to work within the existing set of aviation regulations"

[The law is just another impediment, just another thing that disruptive 
technologies need to break.

[The basic proposition that vehicles-for-short-notice-hire could be 
airborne is of course reasonable.

[But the challenges are far greater than with road vehicles, because of 
gravity and hence the far higher percentage of accidents that have 
disastrous results, including much greater scope for collateral damage.

[However, what the the UberAir announcement is *really* about is 
autonomous, person-bearing aircraft:
 >At first the vehicles, which are being developed to eventually be 
autonomous, will be manned by pilots.
 >Mr Allison said this would allow regulators to become more comfortable 
with the flying vehicles and let it come to market quicker than if it 
tried to roll out self-flying versions from the outset.

[I wrote in 2014:
 >It is apparent that safety levels, even among large drones, are to 
date so far below existing civil aviation norms that public 
acceptability is decades away.

[But Uber, and doubtless Google/Alphabet Project Wing and the other 
similar modern corps, have every expectation that regulators and 
parliaments will buckle before the onslaught of business enterprise and 
economic opportunity.

[CASA's already done so for medium-sized drones carrying pizzas and 
pharmaceuticals;  so the expection is probably justified.]

Flying UberAIR trials set to lift off in Australia with government support
Yolanda Redrup
Nov 12 2018 at 10:00 AM

Within five years, Melburnians or Sydneysiders could look out of their 
office windows and see flying ride-sharing vehicles transporting workers 
between the central business district and regional centres or airports, 
because Uber has entered discussions with local and federal governments.

The company first indicated Melbourne and Sydney as possible trial 
locations for its UberAIR service last year and last week Uber's global 
head of aviation, Eric Allison, was in the country meeting with 
politicians, policymakers and Civil Aviation and Safety Authority (CASA) 

Mr Allison told The Australian Financial Review the Victorian government 
was campaigning hard to be the city of choice.

"We want to go to a place where there is a demand for it and that has 
the need for it. [The city] has to have enough population density, but 
also a large geographic area so you end up with … development patterns 
that lead to congestion," he said.

"It also needs to have a strong ground-based [Uber] business … and we 
also look at the weather, the local regulatory environment in terms of 
skyport permissions, what the electricity grid looks like, local real 
estate partners and then at the national level the aviation regulatory 

Before either state could proceed with UberAIR trials, Uber will need to 
be able to meet federal regulations. But federal Minister for Transport, 
Infrastructure and Regional Development Michael McCormack indicated the 
government was willing to work with Uber.

"I support innovative aviation ideas such as the one proposed by 
UberAIR," he said.

"CASA is considered among world leaders in drone regulations and has 
been assisting with other drone trials such as the one with Google X's 
Project Wing trial in Canberra.

"It is essential these trials are controlled and conducted safely, with 
local communities consulted throughout the process."

The flying vehicle initiative stems from a white paper Uber released 
almost two years ago, outlining its vision for urban, on-demand, 
electric air transport vehicles that take off and land vertically.

It has partnered with Bell Helicopters, Aurora Flight Sciences, 
Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, and Mooney to build the vehicles and the 
necessary infrastructure to support and power them and each company is 
working on a different design.

First flights

The first UberAIR demonstration flights could occur as early as late 
next year in Dallas and Texas.

The company expects to begin offering commercial flights in 2023 at the 
same price as Uber Black, before lowering this to be in line with Uber X 
fares within two years.

At first the vehicles, which are being developed to eventually be 
autonomous, will be manned by pilots.

Mr Allison said this would allow regulators to become more comfortable 
with the flying vehicles and let it come to market quicker than if it 
tried to roll out self-flying versions from the outset.

"We're trying to be very pragmatic even though this is very futuristic … 
in order to bring it to life as soon as possible," he said.

"One of the things that I've emphasised with the team is that I don't 
want there to need to be any matching steps in terms of bringing this 
product to market.

"We're trying to work within the existing set of aviation regulations 
and not require changes of rules because we think the fastest way to get 
to market is to work within the existing legislation and for any future 
rule changes to be driven by the work that we're actually doing on the 

Commute times cut

With UberAIR, commuters could travel from Melbourne airport to the CBD 
in only five minutes and a trip to Geelong would take only 14 minutes.

Uber's business has been growing strongly in this country and the 
Australian division of the ride-sharing giant generated a profit in the 
2017 calendar year. Documents filed with the Australian Securities and 
Investments Commission show it posted a gross profit of $127.3 million 
on revenue of $151.6 million.

At the same time, losses have continued to balloon at its parent 
company, in a large part due to its substantial research and development 
expenses, as it invests in both UberAIR and self-driving cars.

But Mr Allison was confident that even if losses continue to increase, 
the investment in R&D would not reduce.

"We have to be thinking about the future as well as thinking about the 
present," he said. "One of Uber's values is we have to place big world bets.

"We have to be thinking five to 10 years down the road, because we view 
ourselves as a long-term entity and we have to be placing those bets on 
future innovations because the future is going to come faster than you 
think and we want to be there before other people get there."

Roger Clarke                            mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
T: +61 2 6288 6916   http://www.xamax.com.au  http://www.rogerclarke.com

Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA 

Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Law            University of N.S.W.
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

More information about the Link mailing list