Uber has been tinkering with the idea of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) craft for a while now, beginning with the release of a white paper late last year detailing what steps it thinks are required to help it get it get to the point where it might make sense to actually field an on-demand airborne ride hailing service. It announced that it would host an industry summit of people working on making VTOLs affordable and available at the time, and the first iteration of that conference is happening next week, with a live stream available for remote viewing.
Uber doesn’t really want to build flying cars, but it wants to take advantage of them to expand its service offerings and potentially do a bit more to solve the growing problem on city traffic congestion. The Elevate Summit, which it’s hosting in Dallas, Texas April 25 through the 27, is designed to bring together some of the people who might actually be building the cars, and the technology infrastructure required to make it happen.
The website for Uber’s Elevate Summit details some of what’s going to happen at the meeting of minds, which will feature participants from the manufacturing, regulatory, aviation and venture capital industries. Uber has said it wants to help encourage all aspects of the development of affordable, practical, electric VTOL transportation options for use within dense urban environments, so it makes sense to throw all the ingredients in the pot and hope that the result is a delicious flying car stew.
Some of the people speaking during the event include Uber’s own CPO Jeff Holden, along with Ross Perot Jr., Embraer CEO Paulo de Cesar de Souza e Silva, Lilium co-founder and CEO Daniel Wiegand, Airbus A3’s head of autonomous systems Arne Soschek, the governor of Wyoming and many more. There’s a lot of VIP speaker slots Uber is still keeping under wraps, too, so I have to expect a fair number of celebrity astronauts or something.
Uber has a lot going on at the moment in terms of corporate culture crises, legal trouble and executive scrutiny, but it’s still going forward with an effort to kickstart progress on flying cars. Maybe this is how the people putting together those Popular Science covers in the 50s and 60s felt, but I’m increasingly feeling optimism around the possibility of actually experiencing flying cars within my lifetime.