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Uber takes its flying taxi ambitions to Australia

Uber has said Australia will become the first international market for its flying taxi service Uber Air.

The firm has selected Melbourne as the third pilot city for its air taxi programme, joining Dallas and Los Angeles.

Test flights are due to start from 2020, with the aim of launching commercial operations from 2023.

Several companies are developing flying taxis as a future mode of transportation.

Uber said increased air mobility would help ease traffic congestion in cities.

“As major cities grow, the heavy reliance on private car ownership will not be sustainable,” said Eric Allison, global head of the firm’s aviation division Uber Elevate.

“Uber Air holds enormous potential to help reduce road congestion.”

He said the 19 kilometre journey from Melbourne’s central business district to the airport would take some 10 minutes with Uber Air, down from up to an hour by car.

Uber is working with Nasa and the US Army on its flying taxis and has two aircraft manufacturers – Embraer and Pipistrel Aircraft – also on board. Last year, the company said it would open a laboratory in Paris to develop flying taxis.

It comes at a testing time for Uber following a disappointing stock market debut last month.

Uber’s first earnings report showed the US firm posted a $1bn (£790m) loss, as it faced strong competition in its ride-hailing business, and incurred extra costs related to its Uber Eats delivery service.

Back to the future

Uber is not the only company experimenting with flying taxis, reminiscent of the mode of transport in the American cartoon “The Jetsons”.

Tech firms are competing to develop the first viable passenger-carrying sky taxis, while Airbus and a range of start-ups have also been testing self-flying taxis.

Dubai conducted its first test of a drone taxi service in 2017.

Separately, a firm funded by Google founder Larry Page has unveiled an electric, self-flying air taxi that can travel at up to 180 km/h (110mph).