April 25, 2017 / 4:57 PM / in 5 months

Uber looks to soar with flying taxis by 2020

A future Uber Elevate networks facility is pictured in this handout illustration provided April 25, 2017. Uber/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) - After upending the taxi market with its ride-hailing service, Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] is now aiming for the skies with its flying taxis.

The company expects to deploy its flying taxis in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, and Dubai by 2020, Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden said at the Uber Elevate Summit in Dallas on Tuesday.

Uber’s flying taxis will be small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically, or VTOLs, with zero emissions and quiet enough to operate in cities.

Flying taxis would cut down travel time between San Francisco’s Marina to downtown San Jose to 15 minutes, compared with the more than two hours it takes by road, Uber estimates.

In an early scale operation, the company can get to $1.32 per passenger mile, a little higher than taking an UberX for a similar distance, Holden said.

In the longer term, Uber expects the cost of taking flying taxis to fall below car ownership.

The company is working with Hillwood Properties to make four vertiports - VTOL hubs with multiple takeoff and landing pads, and charging infrastructure - in Dallas starting next year, Holden said.

Uber, valued at $68 billion, has also teamed up with companies such as Bell Helicopter, Aurora, Pipistrel, Mooney and Embraer (EMBR3.SA) to make the flying taxis.

The company has also partnered with U.S. electric vehicle charging station maker ChargePoint Inc. Uber is working on developing an exclusive charger for its network.

Uber, which has partnered with the Dubai government, expects to conduct passenger flights as part of the World Expo 2020 in Dubai.

The ride-hailing service has recently been rocked by a number of setbacks, including detailed accusations of sexual harassment from a former female employee and a video showing Chief Executive Travis Kalanick harshly berating an Uber driver.

Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee and Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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