Melbourne will next year become the third world city to test a new app-hailed Uber service that will transport people by air, and other Australian cities could follow if the trial is successful.
The Victorian capital is joining Dallas and Los Angeles in a pilot of Uber Air flights from 2020, ahead of commercial operations starting in 2023.
The electric air taxis will, in the longer term, be able to transport people across cities for the same price as the rideshare service, UberX, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
Regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia Susan Anderson made the announcement at an Uber summit in Washington.
“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology,” she said.
“This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the perfect third launch city for Uber Air.
“We will see other Australian cities following soon after.”
It’s expected that a 19km trip from the CBD to Melbourne Airport will take around 10 minutes with Uber Air, versus up to an hour by car.
“In the coming years, with Uber Air, we want to make it possible for people to push a button and get a flight,” Uber Elevate head Eric Allison added.
Uber Air services use drone like special aircraft that can take off and land vertically from designated hubs – called skyports – like shopping centre rooftops, and carry four passengers and a pilot.
In Melbourne, Uber is working with Westfield shopping centres owner Scentre Group, which has seven centres in the city, to help deliver its service.
“We are curious to understand the role our platform may be able to play in the delivery of Australia’s future mobility options and how this could integrate with current ground transport which already includes ridesharing,” Scentre chief strategy and business development officer Cynthia Whelan said.
Victorian Government Assistant Treasurer Robin Scott said the Uber Air trial plays up the state’s leadership in “transformative technologies”.
Other Australian companies involved in helping to provide the infrastructure needed for the pilot include Macquarie Capital and Telstra, as well as Melbourne Airport.