As the Consumer Electronics Show continues apace and a spate of alternately strange and ingenious concepts set the technorati abuzz, an unlikely name is turning heads. Hyundai Motors—the marque best known for its affordable and rather unremarkable land-based vehicles—is teaming up with Uber for a line of futuristic flying taxis.
The South Korean automaker debuted the first full-scale prototype of the prospective aircraft at the annual tech trade show in Las Vegas on Monday. Dubbed the S-A1, the electric-powered PAV (Personal Air Vehicle) will be able to carry four passengers on trips of up to 60 miles. The air taxi, which will bypass traffic by flying at altitudes of approximately 1,000 to 2,000 feet, can reach a top speed of 180 mph, making it Hyundai’s fastest vehicle.
“Urban Air Mobility will liberate people from grid-lock and reclaim time for people to invest in activities they care about and enjoy,” Hyundai executive Jaiwon Shin said in a statement.
According to automaker, the PAV will use smaller rotors than traditional helicopters making it much quieter in flight. Initially, the air taxis will be operated by a pilot, but will be autonomous once the relevant technologies are fully developed.
Hyundai is partnering with Uber to launch the flying taxis through the Uber Elevate service. Uber has been waxing lyrical about the aerial ride-hailing service since it was first outlined back in 2016. Since then, the Californian company has signed on with a handful of more traditional aerospace partners—like Embraer, Bell and Boeing, among others—though it seems particularly enthusiastic about its latest collaborators.
“Hyundai is our first vehicle partner with experience of manufacturing passenger cars on a global scale,” head of Uber Elevate Eric Allison said. “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.”
So, when can we actually hail an Uber for the air? Neither company has specified when the S-A1 will finally take flight. However, Uber Elevate is planning to begin testing later this year, with hopes of launching the service by 2023.