Ride-hailing firm Uber has unveiled its vision for the future of urban transportation - flying taxis that will carry customers from rooftop to rooftop.
The planned UberAIR service will use electric jet-powered vehicles - part helicopter, part drone and part fixed-wing aircraft - to transport customers around the city.
These aircraft, developed by Boeing and other partners, feature multiple small rotors capable of both vertical take-off and landing and rapid horizontal flight.
The on-demand air taxis can be ordered by customers through the smartphone app, in the same way Uber's road-based taxi alternatives are hailed.
They will carry four passengers and a pilot, and will take off and land from designated rooftop hubs known as "skyports". Eventually Uber hopes the aircraft will be able to fly themselves.
"The ever elusive flying car future we have all envisioned is one step closer," said Nikhil Goel, head of product for the company's flying taxi arm, Uber Elevate.
Uber Technologies said it will use Australia's second-largest city, Melbourne, as the first international test site for the group's planned flying taxi service.
The company will begin test flights of its pilotless aircraft in Melbourne and US cities Dallas and Los Angles in 2020 before commercial operations begin in 2023.
The test flights will transport passengers from one of seven Westfield shopping centres in Melbourne to the city's main international airport.
The 19km journey from the central business district to the airport is expected to take 10 minutes by air, compared with up to an hour by car.
It will reportedly cost about 86 Australian dollars - $20 more than using a regular taxi. In the long term, however, the company claims that UberAIR will transport tens of thousands of people across cities for the same price as an UberX car trip over the same distance.
"Our vision is that it will be more economically rational to fly than to drive," said Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate.
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