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Uber, Embraer On Pace To Roll Out Flying Autonomous Taxis In 2023

Via Benzinga |

Passenger drones have been an American dream for years now, and Embraer SA (ADR) ERJ 0.04% and Uber said the reality is imminent.

The partners, who announced in May their pursuits to market electric vertical take-off and landing, or eVTOL, systems by 2024, said this week that the first flights will take place by the end of 2023.

Leveraging Uber’s expertise in user experience and Embraer’s leadership in commercial aviation, the pair plans to populate the skies of major metropolitan areas with proprietary airtaxis — electric, autonomous mobility services.

“We’re building a whole new aviation market here,” Mark Moore, a NASA veteran and Uber’s director of engineering and aviation, said at the South By Southwest conference in Austin, Texas.

Positive Competition

Uber and Embraer are racing against 52 other tech, auto and aerospace companies who have announced competing eVTOL projects since May. But they are undaunted.

“Having more competitors [and] having more companies trying to do this is positive, it’s not negative,” Antonio Campello, CEO of Embraer’s business innovation center, said during the SXSW session. “We are in a movement now that’s about expediting the ecosystem … it’s not a trend that is far in the future.”

Rivals are pursuing different strategies than that of Uber and Embraer, from accelerated timelines to vertical integration. Uber-Embraer claim to have it right.

“It’s kind of that Silicon Valley hubris that we see sometimes,” Moore said. “ … We’re trying to bring the best of aerospace and the best of Silicon Valley together. Our strategy instead is not trying to do it all, but building a collaborative ecosystem.”

Anticipating Regulation

Strategy is on their side, and they’re working to win regulators over too, Moore said.

“We’re committed to giving the FAA and regulatory authorities the data that they need to prove that the software for autonomy is safe.”

The aircraft will be staffed by commercially rated helicopter pilots for the first several years and several million flight miles to demonstrate the software can handle all contingencies. This priority may delay Uber and Embraer’s exploitation of the autonomy hype.

“Autonomous is going to take some time because we need a lot of hours of operation to prove everything we need to prove,” Campello said.



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