Hyundai has become the first automotive company to join the Uber Elevate initiative, which is developing air taxis for a future aerial ride share network. The involvement of Hyundai brings automotive-scale manufacturing capability and a track record of mass-producing electric vehicles.
They company has released a full scale air vehicle concept that was created in part through Uber's open design process, a NASA-inspired approach that jump starts innovation by publicly releasing vehicle design concepts so any company can use them to innovate their air taxi models and engineering technologies.
In this partnership, Hyundai will produce and deploy the air vehicles and Uber will provide airspace support services, connections to ground transportation and customer interfaces through an aerial ride share network. Both parties are collaborating on infrastructure concepts to support take off and landing for this new class of vehicles.
“Our vision of urban air mobility will transform the concept of urban transportation,” says EVP and head of Hyundai's urban air mobility (UAM) division Jaiwon Shin. “We expect UAM to vitalise urban communities and provide more quality time to people. We are confident that Uber Elevate is the right partner to make this innovative product readily available to as many customers as possible.”
“Hyundai is our first vehicle partner with experience of manufacturing passenger cars on a global scale,” adds head of Uber Elevate Eric Allison. “We believe Hyundai has the potential to build Uber Air vehicles at rates unseen in the current aerospace industry, producing high quality, reliable aircraft at high volumes to drive down passenger costs per trip. Combining Hyundai's manufacturing muscle with Uber's technology platform represents a giant leap forward for launching a vibrant air taxi network in the coming years.”
Hyundai has been working with Uber Elevate to develop a PAV (personal air vehicle) model, S-A1, that utilises innovative design processes to optimise electric vertical take off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. It reflects previous eVTOL designs Uber Elevate has released in so far as it is designed for a cruising speed up to 180 mph (290 km/hr), a cruising altitude of around 1,000 - 2,000 ft (300 - 600m) above ground, and to fly trips up to 60 miles (100 km). It will be 100 per cent electric, during peak hours it will require about five to seven minutes for recharging, and utilises distributed electric propulsion powering multiple rotors and propellers around the airframe to increase safety by decreasing any single point of failure. Having several, smaller rotors also reduces noise relative to large rotor helicopters with combustion engines, which is very important to cities. The model is designed to take off vertically, transition to wing-borne lift in cruise and then transition back to vertical flight to land. It will be piloted initially, but over time will become autonomous. The cabin is designed with four passenger seats, allowing riders to board/disembark easily and avoid the dreaded middle seat, with enough space for a personal bag or backpack.
Hyundai's exploration of future urban transportation incorporates the electric PAV concept with a new ground transportation, the purpose built vehicle (PBV) concept. The company's vision for creating communities from future transit systems incorporates another new infrastructure concept called the Hub. When many PBVs and PAVs are docked and connected to a Hub, they make a new public space where diverse groups of people can come together.