On August 30, Uber said it has shortlisted five countries, besides the US, to launch its air taxis as part of its Uber Elevate programme: Japan, India, Australia, Brazil, and France. Since then, India is waiting for the inevitable to happen. But the road is still long.
Last year, Uber announced Los Angeles and Dallas as the two cities to begin piloting their aerial taxis. While initially, speculations were rife that Uber may choose an Indian city as its third market for the pilot, the company has recently announced Melbourne, Australia as its first international city for the expansion of its futuristic flying taxi service Uber Air.
Uber is aiming to commercially launch Uber Air in the three markets by 2023 and believes that target in itself is ‘too ambitious’ to add another city to the list till that time. Although seems a far-fetched notion now, but India is still on cards according to company officials.
“We are very interested in India in terms of potential for the Uber Air market in the long run. It’s certainly on top of the list of the next places we want to go to,” said Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate. “
As Allison suggested, India presents challenges with respect to the way we are actually able to operationalise Uber Air in the country. “We had some discussions with the aviation authority and several of the state government representatives and it looks promising,” he added.
Uber team also met with Indian Minister Jayant Sinha to discuss their air taxi launch plan in the country. With drone policy launched last year, then Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha, shared his optimism in September to make air taxi operation in India a reality soon.
“Met with @Uber Elevate team. India offers an encouraging and responsive regulatory framework to solve the challenge of urban transportation. With our progressive drone policies, we want to see air taxis becoming a reality soon!,” the Minister tweeted
While Uber might be facing regulatory hurdles in India, a few local companies have already started piloting for air taxi services. In March 2018, Kerala-based Thumbay Aviation started its flying taxi service in Bengaluru.
Later in November, reports also surfaced that Navi Mumbai’s VTOL Aviation Pvt. Ltd., in collaboration with technocrats at Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, may soon give an Indian response to Uber’s aerial ride-sharing service, Uber Elevate. This company is said to be developing battery-operated air taxis that may be commercialised and deployed into service by 2025.
Update: 13 June, 2019 5:00 PM IST
Uber responded to the Inc42 story with this quote: ”We continue to remain committed to India and are bullish about bringing the benefits of urban air mobility to the country. We are extremely encouraged by the developments made in each country in support of the future of urban aviation and urban air mobility and will continue to work with local teams and policymakers to bring Uber Air to their cities in the future.
While Melbourne has been currently chosen, we believe that Uber Air will one day operate in the other potential countries, including India, The decision was made after comprehensive analysis and due diligence. As part of the process, five potential countries were evaluated on a variety of factors including market viability, weather favourability, complimentary infrastructure and enabling regulatory framework.”
[The development was reported by LiveMint.]