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(Australian Associated Press)
Melbourne will be the third city in the world to trial a new app-hailed Uber service that transports people by air, in a step Victoria says will cement the city’s innovation credentials.
The Victorian capital is joining Dallas and Los Angeles in a pilot of Uber Air flights from 2020, ahead of commercial operations starting in 2023.
The electric aircraft will, in the longer term, be able to fly people across cities for the same price as the car rideshare service UberX.
Regional general manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia Susan Anderson said the move was possible because of forward-thinking Australian governments.
“This, coupled with Melbourne’s unique demographic and geospatial factors, and culture of innovation and technology, makes Melbourne the perfect third launch city for Uber Air,” she said on Wednesday.
“We will see other Australian cities following soon after.”
Treasurer Tim Pallas said the state government will support the venture, but not financially, and alongside Civil Aviation Authority and other key bodies.
The plan is for the electric aircraft, accredited by CASA, to take off and land vertically from a network of landing and takeoff pads dubbed “skyports”.
Melbourne was selected after an 18-month process.
“(It’s) a testament to this city’s capacity to innovate, embrace new ideas adopt early, and we’ve got a track record of doing it,” Mr Pallas told reporters.
In fact, the government expects Victorians to be taking an Uber Air to the airport before they’ll be able to catch a train.
“The expectation is, subject to the confirmation through the appropriate regulatory authorities as to safety and airspace access, there will be a capacity to take Uber Air to the airport long before Melbourne airport rail is up and running,” Mr Pallas said.
“But of course Melbourne airport rail is still a vitally important option that we need to be able to provide to all Victorians because one is about getting there quick, the other one is about getting there in large numbers and consistent frequency.”
It’s expected that a 19km trip from the CBD to Melbourne Airport will take about 10 minutes with Uber Air, compared to up to an hour by car.
In Melbourne, Uber is working with Westfield shopping centres owner Scentre Group, which has seven centres in the city, to help deliver its service.
“We are curious to understand the role our platform may be able to play in the delivery of Australia’s future mobility options and how this could integrate with current ground transport which already includes ridesharing,” Scentre chief strategy and business development officer Cynthia Whelan said.
Other Australian companies involved in helping to provide the infrastructure needed for the pilot include Macquarie Capital and Telstra, as well as Melbourne Airport.