Uber plans to launch an advanced 'flying taxi' service between Melbourne CDB and Melbourne Airport in 2020, whisking business travellers and other time-pressed souls between city rooftop and airport landing pad in 10 minutes for less than $100.
The trial of the Uber Air service will involve a radical new type of aircraft - a drone-like piloted, electric vertical take-off and landing passenger vehicle designed by Uber's manufacturing partners, including Boeing and Bell Helicopters.
Each of the flying taxis will carry four passengers in a cabin behind the pilot.
There's a hand luggage allowance of 18 kilograms per passenger – larger checked bags will need to be sent ahead separately.
The 19km journey from Melbourne's CBD to Tullamarine airport currently takes anywhere from 25 minutes to more than an hour in peak hour by car, but is expected to take just 10 minutes by air.
Uber expects the second-most popular route will be between Melbourne and Geelong, a 75km trip that takes over an hour by car but would be cut to less than 20 minutes by air.
Melbourne will join Los Angeles and Dallas as pilot cities for the program, with test flights beginning in 2020 ahead of plans for a full commercial operation from 2023.
The lofty goal is to make these app-hailed airborne taxi services “as affordable as getting an UberX from any destination."
Uber has struck agreements with Macquarie Capital, Telstra, Westfield shopping centres owner Scentre Group, and Melbourne Airport to construct "city skyports" to host the Uber Air shuttles.
Uber has proposed using car park roofs – including those of shopping centres – and existing helipads to run the service. "The closest equivalent technology in use today is the helicopter," the company has previously observed. "But helicopters are too noisy, inefficient, polluting and expensive for mass-scale use."
Cynthia Whelan, chief strategy officer at Scentre Group, which owns and operates Westfield shopping centres, said the announcement "recognises the strategic locations of our Westfield centres, which are regarded as integral social infrastructure because of their close proximity to customers, communities and transport hubs”.
Susan Anderson, regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia, said Melbourne was selected for its "unique demographic and geospatial factors", but "we will see other Australian cities following soon after."
"In the coming years, with Uber Air, we want to make it possible for people to push a button and get a flight."