Uber and AT&T have announced a partnership that will provide “always-on connectivity” during aerial transport through the upcoming Uber Air and Uber Copter services, with the Air service tentatively set to debut in 2023, according to a report.
The news was announced at the annual Elevate Summit, an event designed to bring together important people working to make in-city aerial transport an accessible and affordable reality.
Uber Copter will be a Manhattan-to-JFK service launching in July in New York. Uber said it has been working with AT&T on the network it will use for the service, and plans to facilitate ground service on both ends of the trip. That means Uber will calculate the timing of a car to take someone to the heliport depending on when the person needs to fly.
Uber Copter is the first step of the broader Uber Air service, which has a goal of providing short-distance air travel in cities across the U.S.
Uber Elevate Head of Product Nikhil Goel said the company aims to take advantage of AT&T’s 5G network, and that the mobile company will provide the exact type of reliable network the endeavor needs to work.
Uber envisions Uber Air as a flying taxi service, according to reports. And Eric Allison, the head of Elevate, said that one day, when Uber starts using self-driving, the service will be cheaper than owning a car.
“Our vision is that on a daily basis, it’ll be more economically rational for you to fly than for you to drive,” he said.
When Uber Air launches, it will be cheaper than a helicopter ride, which is noteworthy given the recent launch of Uber Copter as phase one of Uber Air. Uber said Air will be closer to the cost of Uber X and Uber Pool, and that in five years it will be cheaper than a car.
There are a lot of pieces that need to fall into place in order for Uber Air to work. One of the most important is approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for its vehicles to operate, land and take off. It also needs help from real estate developers, and must build a level of customer trust so people will feel comfortable using the service.