Uber explores offering short-hop flights across town

VTOL aircraft would take you above the traffic jams.

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Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images
Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

Uber has already resorted to more than one unusual method to get you from one side of town to another, but you haven't seen anything yet. The ridesharing outfit's Jeff Holden tells Recode that Uber is researching the use of VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft for short-hop urban flights. It'd potentially speed up long trips, especially in areas where traffic jams might make a conventional ride excruciatingly slow. You could travel from San Francisco to Oakland in 9 minutes, Holden suggests.

There's no firm commitment to offering a VTOL choice, although Holden suggests it might happen within a decade. As it stands, any initial offering would be limited by modern technology and city layouts: you'd need piloted vehicles, and the combination of loud engines with limited landing areas would dictate just where these aircraft could touch down. The big breakthrough would come with autonomous, quiet (likely electric) vehicles that could fly almost anywhere. You could get a lift to a rooftop in the heart of downtown, for instance.

And it's not as if either Uber or the industry are standing still. Remember how Uber recently teamed up with Airbus? Well, Airbus has been researching autonomous air taxis -- it's not a stretch to imagine a future collaboration where Uber uses those taxis to shuttle customers back and forth. While four-wheeled ridesharing isn't going away any time soon, it probably won't be your only choice at some point in the future.

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