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The joint announcement at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) by Uber Elevate and Hyundai Motor Company that they will partner to develop Uber Air air-taxis for a future aerial ride-share network is news, but just as importantly, it's corporate messaging. At the crux of the announcement is Hyundai's reputation as an automotive OEM with a perceived ability to leverage economies of scale. For an urban air mobility (UAM) market to emerge at any sort of scale, Uber and industry observers believe that hundreds of thousands of four-passenger electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft will have to be built.
Their numbers, along with theoretically cheap eVTOL operating costs, are the key to getting the cost per seat at or near the level of ground transportation. But passenger air vehicles aren't built in taxi-cab-like numbers. So the prospect of a car maker churning out air taxis like sedans is an attractive one.
"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," Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, said at CES.
Jaiwon Shin, Executive Vice President and Head of Hyundai's Urban Air Mobility Division said, "Our vision of Urban Air Mobility will transform the concept of urban transportation."
But how Hyundai—or any of the other seven companies which are building eVTOL air taxis for Uber Air—will cost-effectively manufacture hundreds of thousands of piloted and eventually autonomous aircraft to airworthiness/certification standards set by the FAA and other regulators is one among many open questions.
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