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Uber Wants to Launch Its Flying Cars in an International City. Here’s What It’s Looking For.

Uber is ready to add a third city to its flying taxi pilot program. But this time, it’s looking to go international.

The ride-hailing company announced during its two-day Elevate Summit that it’s taking applications until Jul. 1 from international cities that want to become an uberAIR launch city. The company has already announced plans to launch its flying taxi service in Dallas and Los Angeles.

Uber plans to launch flying taxi demonstrations in 2020 and commercial trips by 2023. Uber’s flying cars, or more accurately vertical take-off and landing (VTOL or eVTOL if electric) aircrafts, are at the center of this system. Uber first announced its flying car plans in 2016 when it released a white paper describing its vision of the future.

These VTOL vehicles (pronounced vee-tol), would theoretically help passengers leapfrog snarling traffic and speed up transportation between suburbs and cities.

In Uber’s view, the ideal international city has more than 2 million people and a density of 2,000 people per square mile. There should also be a large airport nearby that takes people more than one hour to get to and from the city center due to distance and other constraints like traffic.

The city should also be what Uber describes as polycentric, basically pockets of dense areas of development spread around a larger metro area. Picture Los Angeles. It’s these kinds of metro areas where people face traffic congestion and would pay for a flying taxi to shuttle them above the jammed highways and streets below.

Other criteria:

  • Stable weather environment. So, a major city with extreme cold or heat, probably won’t qualify.
  • The involvement of at least one large local real estate partner and a city government willing to provide streamlined building permitting, as well as zoning processes for Uber’s “Skyports,” the designated drop off and pickup points for its flying taxis.
  • A robust electrical grid to support the electrified VTOLs.

Uber emphasized that it’s not looking for tax breaks or local incentives.