Hyundai Motor Co. and Uber have announced a joint partnership to develop Uber air taxis for a future aerial ride share network and unveiled a full-scale aircraft concept at (CES).

Hyundai is the first automotive company to join the Uber Elevate initiative and brings an automotive-scale manufacturing capability and a track record of mass-producing electric vehicles, the company said.

SEE: More CES 2020 coverage (TechRepublic)

The air vehicle concept was created in part through Uber’s open design process, a NASA-inspired approach that jump-starts innovation by publicly releasing vehicle design concepts that any company can use to develop their own custom air taxi models and engineering technologies, Hyundai said.

Under the terms of the 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 takeoff and landing for this new class of vehicles, Hyundai said.

“Our vision of urban air mobility will transform the concept of urban transportation,” said Jaiwon Shin, executive vice president and head of Hyundai’s urban air mobility (UAM) division, in a statement. “We expect UAM to vitalize urban communities and provide more quality time to people.”

Hyundai is Uber Elevate’s first vehicle partner with experience manufacturing passenger cars on a global scale, said Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, in a statement.

“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,” Allison said.

The combination of Hyundai’s manufacturing capabilities coupled with Uber’s technology platform will help propel the concept of an air taxi network forward in the coming years, he said.

Hyundai worked with Uber Elevate to develop a PAV (personal air vehicle) model, the S-A1, an aircraft designed for electric vertical take-off and landing for aerial ridesharing purposes.

“The Elevate initiative based this process on NASA’s historical approach of putting design concepts out publicly to inspire innovation amongst multiple companies, spurring the development of common research models to investigate novel aerodynamic concepts and catalyzing industry progress in wing design, noise, aerodynamics, and simulation verification,” Hyundai said.

Aerial aircraft features

The Hyundai S-A1 model introduced at CES is designed for a cruising speed up to 180 miles per hour; a cruising altitude of 1,000-2,000 feet; and to fly trips up to 60 miles per hour, the company said.

The Hyundai vehicle will be 100% electric, utilizing distributed electric propulsion and during peak hours will require about five to seven minutes for recharging, according to Hyundai.

The electric aircraft utilizes distributed electric propulsion, powering multiple rotors and propellers around the airframe to increase safety by decreasing any single point of failure, the company said.

“Having several, smaller rotors also reduces noise relative to large rotor helicopters with combustion engines, which is very important to cities,” Hyundai said.

The model is designed to take off vertically, transition to wing-borne lift in cruise, and then transition back to vertical flight to land. The Hyundai vehicle will be piloted initially, but over time it will become autonomous.

The cabin has four passenger seats, allowing riders to board/disembark easily and avoid the “dreaded middle seat” with enough space for a personal bag, Hyundai said.

Uber’s goal is to conduct flight demonstrations this year and make Elevate commercially available to riders in 2023, Hyundai said.

Uber has entered into a number of partnerships with other manufacturers including Aurora Flight Sciences (now a subsidiary of Boeing), Bell, Embraer, Joby Aviation, Pipistrel Aircraft, Karem Aircraft and Jaunt Air Mobility.

Uber’s analysis projects that an electric vehicle will travel at a speed of up to 200 mph and that eventually, an Uber Elevate ride will cost the same as an UberX trip of the same distance, according to Hyundai.

Uber Air Taxi
Image: Hyundai