Uber picks Dallas, Fort Worth as test cities for flying vehicle network

Published 27 April 2017

Uber is looking to North Texas as a testing ground for its initiative to make intra-urban flying vehicle rides a reality. The company announced Tuesday that Dallas and Fort Worth are its first U.S. partner cities for what its dubbing the “Uber Elevate Network.” The company hopes to have the first demonstration of how such a network of flying, hailed vehicles would work in three years.

Uber is also working with Dallas’ Hillwood Properties to plan vertiports, sites where the aircraft would pick up and drop off passengers. Fort Worth’s Bell Helicopter is among companies partnering with Uber to help develop the actual vehicles, called VTOLs because they would vertically take off and land.

The announcement was made at a three-day Uber Elevate Summit being held in Dallas.

“This is an opportunity for our city to show leaders from around the world and across industries why Dallas should be a part of building a better future for urban mobility,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in a prepared statement.

Uber’s ambitious plans comes as the company experienced fast revenue growth but $2.8 billion in losses last year. Tuesday’s announcements also comes on the heels of a series of scandals at Uber, including several of its top executives exiting the company in fast succession and amid an ongoing internal investigation into sexual harassment claims. Uber also faced widespread customer backlash earlier this year for a decision to keep operating at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City amid a taxicab boycott in response toPresident Trump’s initial travel ban.

And it follows just days after the New York Times reported that Uber had previously “been secretly identifying and tagging iPhones even after its app had been deleted and the devices erased — a fraud detection maneuver that violated Apple’s privacy guidelines.”

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Bell is developing propulsion technology to build electric airborne vehicles “that are quieter than the usual helicopter.”

“It’s not going to happen right away, tomorrow, but the technology is definitely there,” Bell chief executive Mitch Snyder told the newspaper. “We definitely believe the hybrid electric is something we could go make and fly right now. But I think full electric, to give it the range and everything you want out of it, is not quite there.”

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said in a prepared statement that she is “thrilled” her city is part of the Elevate initiative.