Op-Ed: Designs for Uber's Skyports Fail on the Basics

The hulking structures proposed to handle UberAIR's fleet of flying taxis won't be able to serve 4,000 passengers per hour. And that's just one of their many deficiencies, Alissa Walker writes.

June 1, 2018, 7:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


frank60 / Shutterstock

Alissa Walker excoriates a set of designs for the "skyports" Uber wants to install in cities to serve UberAIR, its ambitious plan to make autonomous flying taxis a reality. "As they stand now, these hulking structures are essentially just freeway ramps—limited capacity, car-centric infrastructure that would take up a lot of space in our cities but serve only one purpose—and even getting them to work as well as existing freeways will be challenging."

Walker goes through a laundry list of criticisms, beginning with the steep logistical challenges involved. Furthermore, she writes, "this is clearly car-centric infrastructure, even if it's all about the air. Because you will be getting to the UberAIR terminal via your Uber car, of course." The plans tend to locate the hulking skyports next to or over existing freeways.

Another problem: "many of [the designs] appear to be the tallest building in the neighborhoods they serve, and god bless any architect who believes he might be able to convince a homeowners' association on LA's lawsuit-happy Westside to build a small airport on top of a brand-new skyscraper."

Should they ever become a reality, "Uber's skyports should be places that provide a myriad of additional benefits for neighborhoods—and don't create any additional car trips." Of course, this idea is still in its earliest stages, and Uber hasn't yet settled on what kind of VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) aircraft would work here, if any.

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