Flying Cars and Skyports Versus Tunnels and Self-driving Electric Cars

Uber is trying to commercialize ride-sharing electric flying taxis within 5 years. Uber wants to have two demonstrator flights by 2020. Uber wants to begin commercial flights in 2023.

Uber needs to build many Skyports where their electric flying vehicles would provide locations where people would load and disembark from near-personal flying taxis.

Uber wants flying vehicle designed for 150-200 mph cruise speeds and maximum one-minute take-offs and landings.

Uber is looking to initially service mega-commuters. Although urban commute distances are typically 8.5 miles each way according to the U.S. Census, this is unlikely to be a good early use case due to the dense support infrastructure that would be required. Mega Commuters (within the same metropolitan area) have average daily commutes of 93 miles each way.

Electric VTOLs will likely use large battery packs, nominally a 140 kWh pack for a 4 person aircraft.

Current commuting practices suggest that a minimal effective VTOL range in the near-term is to conduct two 50 mile trips at maximum speed, with sufficient energy for two takeoffs and landings. VTOL designs that can achieve cruise aerodynamic efficiencies with a Lift/Drag ratio of greater than 10 (with 12 to 17 desirable) and battery cell-specific energy of 400 Wh/kg.

Vertiport and Vertistop Development

In the U.S. there are 5,664 helipads with all but 66 for private use. Most of this infrastructure is essentially unused.

UberAIR ride, the craft will fly to the nearest ‘Skyport’ – a series of launch pads spread across the city. Initially, cities like London and Los Angeles would have 25 to 40 Skyports. Uber predicts that trips from LAX to the Staples Centre during rush hour can be reduced from up to 1 hour 20 minutes on the ground to less than 30 minutes using UberAir. The flight over LA itself will take around four minutes for a 12-mile trip or fifteen minutes for a 50-mile trip.

The initial budget for the 150 (capacity Skyport) would be around $65 million. But the direct cost of construction – just the building itself with none of the soft costs — would be $48 million.

Uber estimates that an all-electric, 200mph (320kph) ride across the skies of Los Angeles will be price-competitive with an UberX trip of the same distance.

Boring Company Tunnels and Self-driving Electric Cars

Elon Musk’s Boring Company has indicated that their tunnels will cost $10 million per mile initially and could reach $1 million per mile later. They would support up to 4,000 cars per hour. They would have guide-wheels that would keep self-driving electric cars properly spaced and safe.

Self-driving cars should be safer than regular cars. The Uber Elevate plan is for the initial air taxi service to be twice as dangerous as regular cars.

The Boring company could produce about 12 thirteen-mile long tunnels at $10 million per mile versus twenty-four Uber Skyports. If Boring Company can lower the cost to $1 million per mile then they could build 24 sixty-five mile-long tunnels.

Existing Tesla cars can drive for about 60-miles at 120 mph. If the electric cars have increased battery capacity of 140 kWh then they would have about 100-mile range at 120 mph.

Self-driving cars would not need to transfer from ride-sharing car to ride-sharing air taxi and would not have to route to and from different Skyports.

Boring Company and self-driving electric cars should have about ten-million vehicles in the USA by 2023. There should be about thirty-million vehicles in China by 2023.

Boring Company should have its first tunnels in Chicago, Los Angeles and Australia by 2023.

Tesla will likely be competing with Uber with a self-driving ride-sharing service in about two-years.

Uber’s flying taxis and Boring Company tunnels and services will both be able to compete and succeed for the first few years. They will each have niche markets to exploit.

Having all cars with self-driving technology will get rid of the traffic jams. Cars would be able to communicate to keep traffic moving at higher speeds.

Flying taxis will eventually remain a smaller niche without further breakthroughs in speed and performance.