The Uber Elevate Summit, which just wrapped up the other week, has in its sights a world in which people get around big cities by flying from spot to spot. Here’s why that isn’t going to happen.
6. There’s nowhere to land! Today, there are few helicopter options in any big city in the world. Why? Because there’s nowhere for them to land! In New York City, for example, there are a few commuter ready heliports, none of them in the city center, because there’s nowhere for a helicopter to land. To overcome this concern, Uber has trotted out a series of futuristic looking skyports…they will be uber expensive to build—how much does half a city block of real estate cost in Manhattan?–and then commuters will still be unsatisfied because…..
5. Commuters are still going to have to get to their destination! One thing is certain. The flying taxi is not going to drop you off at the front entrance at Goldman Sachs. You’re going to have to schlep from the skyport to the front door. By taxi or Uber, by bike or on foot. But the schlep is going to be real. And this is a problem because…
4. You’re not going to save any time! Changing modes of transportation, as any train commuter can tell you, takes time. The more modes you use, the longer it takes. By substituting an urban air taxi for the original car for hire, you’re adding time. But if you can cut 20 percent off of a commute, won’t that be a benefit? Not enough of one, and that’s because ….
3. It’s going to cost a fortune. The reason I fly on Southwest instead of chartering a Gulfstream…does anyone need to complete this sentence. No. It’s the money! Building skyports and getting new air vehicles and their infrastructure approved is going to be massively expensive. And if you think the Federal Aviation Administration is going to go easy on any of these plans, you’re crazy. Their butts are on the line and it’s a serious problem because…
2. It’s going to be dangerous for everyone! The reason that the FAA is so tough on airlines and charter plane operators is because flying can be risky. You crash, your estate will worry about the consequences. That’s not so bad for small planes, because there aren’t many of them. But thousands of flying taxis zigzagging around major cities and their tall buildings and their hundreds of thousands of pedestrians on the sidewalks and in the streets below, and the weather that can be challenging to fly in when there aren’t giant skyscrapers all around, and you’re talking major risk. New Yorkers want to ban helicopter flights because one crashed the other week killing one person, the pilot. Think they’re going to love a jillion flying taxis? Then you ain’t never been to New York, honey, and beside that, it’s not happening because….
1. It’s crazy complicated! You need to bring in new aircraft that have never been approved by the FAA to fly and not run into tall buildings and hundreds of other little air taxis and to not crash into the people below, who will have no protection whatsoever and they all need to get into and back out of still-imaginary skyports where people will have to go—is there security—hello, TSA, what’s your take on this?—and it all has to get paid for? This whole thing is never, ever happening. But it’s fun to dream about, right?