Within just 3 years Uber devastated the L.A. taxi industry. The smartphone based company has gone on to affect many other markets. Even the English language has been changed by the Uber app. Start-ups everywhere pitch themselves as the Uber of “x” product or “x” service. Uber has become a noun signifying a type of a market disruptor. Next flying cars.
The LA Times reports how thanks to Uber the number of taxi rides has fallen by 30%. Taxi Commission President Eric Spiegelman reports that now taxis take in somewhere around $400-$500 a week apposed to $800 (in 2012). In under 4 years Uber has revolutionized the transportation industry, beginning as a small start-up and becoming a large-scale company valued at over 60 billion.
For this young and successful company, ‘sky’s the limit’. Well, not exactly, in 2016 the company announced their desire to pursue project “Elevate,” flying cars. While the statement certainly raised some eyebrows. It was met with many reservations. How would the FAA regulate the semi-private pilots? How would Uber ensure safety? In addition, Uber’s new strategy counted on the invention of a cheap and lightweight plane. The plan seemed implausible.
It was not until Tuesday, April 25th, before many in the technology industry world began to take the proposal seriously. Uber hosted their 3 day Elevate Summit from the 25th – 27th to provide information and garner support for the venture.
“It’s push a button and get a flight”
This is the vision Uber’s Chief Product Officer looks forward to. The company hopes to launch its first Vertical Take Off and Land (VTOL) airplane in 2020. Ideally the aircrafts will be cost efficient and will not need a runway. Elevate would be extremely practical for people in urban environments; the company hopes to cut a 2 hour drive to 15 minutes.
Although the concept seems like something out of a science fiction novel. The conference has proven that Uber’s Elevate project is making actual headway. On Day 1, the company outlined all the partners ‘on board’ with Uber Elevate: Bell Helicopter, Aurora Flight Sciences, Pistrel Aircraft, Embraer, ChargePoint, and Mooney.
Uber plans to initiate Uber Elevate in Dallas and Dubai. The company is already is already in conversation with the leadership of the two cities. Uber plans to work with Dubai Road and Transport Authority, and has contacted Hillwood, a land developer in Dallas to begin planning the VOTL Vertical Take Of and Landing (VTOL) “vertiports,” mini and accessible airports.
In the past few months, however, Uber has made headlines for the wrong reasons. From being accused of sexism, and theft, the company has been involved with multiple scandals this year. It is difficult to overlook the possibility that Uber Elevate is simply distraction from the company’s issues.
2017 will be a pivotal year for the company. Will Uber become a description word signifying a fad company that will eventually burnt out? Or will Uber continue to be a strong and long-lasting company with the ability to re-invent itself?