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Uber’s flying car one step closer to take-off

Complementing a prediction by its CEO earlier this year, ride-sharing company Uber unveiled the prototype of its flying car Tuesday, a year after Larry Page-led Kitty Hawk first showed to the world its version of aerial taxi.

Uber’s drone-like flying vehicle was displayed at the second annual Uber Elevate Summit in Los Angles. The electrically powered car is designed to cruise up to 2,000 feet above the ground and is capable of taking off vertically and landing on rooftops.

Image Courtesy: CBS News

The company expects to start commercial operations of the first fleet within five years. While the airborne taxis will be controlled by pilots initially, they would gradually transition into autonomous mode.

The San Francisco, California-based company intends to commence test flights in select cities by 2020. If everything goes as planned, the first commercial air taxi will hit the skies in 2023. Interestingly, the company claims that initially, the fares would be at par with its existing premium taxi service, for the same distance.

The prototype features four stacked rotors for lift and a tail-fitted fifth one for forward motion, which according to Uber officials would enhance safety.  While giving the prototype the look of a drone, rather than a conventional aircraft, the unique design makes them much quieter than helicopters.

The electrically powered car is designed to fly up to 2,000 feet above the ground

With more players taking to the skies, competition is heating up in the segment. Kitty Hawk, the pioneer of the flying taxi concept, showcased a refined version earlier this year. A few weeks prior to that, aviation giant Airbus successfully tested its flying car.

Meanwhile, there are apprehensions that the flying taxi projects could face regulatory hurdles when it comes to large-scale commercial operation, for the existing infrastructure is inadequate for aerial taxies to conduct service safely. As the number of firms testing their luck in the skies increase, the authorities will be forced to set stringent safety norms.

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