Uber takes flight

Concept images. Pictures - UBER ELEVATE.

By Mitchell Clarke

Commuters in the south-east could soon turn to the skies as a means to get around the growing congestion in the area, with Westfield Fountain Gate penned as a location for a heli-pad styled platform for ride sharing company UberAir.

The Scentre Group has backed bold plans to bring UberAir to Melbourne, with Uber Elevate selecting Westfield as a major partner due to their suitable locations to explore further mobility options for Australians.

With congestion costing Australia $16.5 billion annually, and increased growth in the south east, City of Casey mayor Amanda Stapledon has welcomed the concept, suggesting it would have a positive impact on the future of the region.

“We are very excited about the prospect for Westfield and for Casey,” Ms Stapledon said.

“We’re always looking for ways to reduce traffic congestion and get people from A to B.

“As we are a ‘smart city’ and working toward digital transformation, this is a great fit to further innovate our city.”

Currently, 65 per cent of Australians and New Zealanders live within 30 minutes of a Westfield centre.

Scentre Group’s chief strategy and business development officer Cynthia Whelan said the announcement recognised Westfield’s strategic locations which are regarded as integral social infrastructure due to their proximity and connectivity to customers, community and transport hubs.

“We’re 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,” Ms Whelan said.

“Initially we’ll be exploring how our seven Westfield centres in Victoria could play a role in delivering an on-demand Urban Air Mobility service, potentially through the hosting of sky ports and charging stations.

“Over time, as Uber Elevate looks to expand its offering, we will work together to better understand Uber Air’s demand mapping and determine feasibility at our living centres in other Australian states.”

Announced earlier this month, the concept of Uber Air aims to help alleviate transport congestion, with Melbourne being selected alongside Dallas and Los Angeles as pilot cities for the trial program.

Regional General Manager for Uber in Australia, New Zealand and North Asia Susan Anderson said Australians have embraced Uber wholeheartedly, with over 3.8 million Aussies regularly using the platform to get from one place to another.

“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology,” Ms Anderson said.

“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.”

Uber hopes the future of the flights will consist of quiet electric vehicles transporting tens of thousands of people across cities for the same price as an UberX trip over the same distance.

Test flights are due to start from 2020 with plans for commercial operations to commence from 2023.

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