CES 2020

Uber, Hyundai team up to develop air taxis using automotive-scale manufacturing

Hyundai and Uber have teamed up to create future of air taxis.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai

Chances are that if you've taken an Uber recently, you've seen some new transportation additions to the app like scooters and the availability to share rides. Users can also summon a helicopter straight from their smartphone. Hyundai and Uber have announced a partnership to develop the next-generation of rides to share, Uber Air Taxis.

Hyundai is the first company that has partnered with Uber in their Uber Elevate initiative to bring automotive-scale manufacturing capability to the electric air vehicle development process.

Hyundai Uber Air Taxi CES 2020 Hyundai and Uber will also collaborate on take-off and landing zone infrastructure.Photo courtesy of Hyundai

As part of the partnership, Hyundai will produce and deploy the air vehicles. Uber will provide airspace support services, connections for users from the air taxis to ground transportation, and customer interfaces through a sharing network. The companies are collaborating on infrastructure concepts to support take-off and landing zones.

"Hyundai is our first vehicle partner with experience of manufacturing passenger cars on a global scale," said Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate. "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. Combining Hyundai's manufacturing muscle with Uber's technology platform represents a giant leap forward for launching a vibrant air taxi network in the coming years."

Hyundai has released information on an air vehicle concept that used Uber's open design process, which was inspired by NASA and encourages publicly releasing vehicle design concepts so any company can use them to innovate.

As part of that design process, Hyundai is revealing:

  • The concept air taxi is designed for a cruising speed up to 180 miles/hr (290 km/hr), a cruising altitude of around 1,000-2,000 feet (300 - 600 mt) above ground, and to fly trips up to 60 mile (100 km).
  • The Hyundai vehicle will be 100% electric, utilizing distributed electric propulsion and during peak hours will require about five to seven minutes for recharging.
  • Hyundai's electric aircraft utilizes distributed electric propulsion, powering multiple rotors and propellers around the airframe to increase safety by decreasing any single point of failure. Having several, smaller rotors also reduces noise relative to large rotor helicopters with combustion engines, which is very important to cities.
  • The model is designed to take off vertically, transition to wing-borne lift in cruise, and then transition back to vertical flight to land.
  • The Hyundai vehicle will be piloted initially, but over time they will become autonomous.
  • The cabin is designed with four passenger seats, allowing riders to board / disembark easily and avoid the dreaded middle seat with enough space for a personal bag or backpack / rider.

This initiative is the latest in the in Hyundai's active approach to finding transportation solutions for cities of the future. Earlier this year, the company outlined their vision for those cities at a conference in San Francisco.

Hyundai Motor's Hydrogen Mobility Solution won the second-ever International Truck of the Year Truck Innovation Award in 2019.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America
Three key steps need to be taken to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to hydrogen, according to Hyundai. Hyundai Motor Group Executive Vice Chairman and Hydrogen Council Co-chair Euisun Chung opened up the Hydrogen Council's third annual CEO Meeting in Paris, France with a speech outlining the steps.

As a first step, Chung recommended achieving cost reductions through technological innovation in all sectors of the hydrogen industry. From production to storage, distribution, and application, Chung says that new creative ways of lowering the cost of hydrogen need to be discovered and implemented.

In his speech, Chung also said that there needs to be a comprehensive safety management system throughout the entire hydrogen value chain in order to convince the general public that hydrogen is completely reliable in terms of safety.

Because of the lack of harmful emissions from vehicle tailpipes when they're fueled by hydrogen, the tradition has health benefits for humans and Mother Earth. Chung's speech underlined the need for governments and policymakers to advocate the inclusive benefits of hydrogen and promote the vision of a hydrogen society and the opportunities it will create. This statement is in line with the priorities of the Hydrogen Council.

The Hydrogen Council and Chung recognize that hydrogen adaption may require government and policy intervention. Additionally, billions of dollars in investment are necessary. The Council suggests that this may be as much as $70 billion.

"A clean energy future with hydrogen is closer than we think, because the industry has been working hard on addressing remaining challenges. This report shows what remains to be done and defines a clear path forward," said Benoit Potier, chairman and CEO of Air Liquide and co-chair of the Hydrogen Council. "2020 marks the beginning of a new era for energy: As the potential for hydrogen to become part of our global energy system becomes a reality, we can expect fewer emissions and improved security and flexibility. This announces the decade of hydrogen."

"The Hydrogen Council hopes that the report's findings will not only increase public awareness about the potential of hydrogen to power everyday lives, but also debunk the myth that a hydrogen economy is unattainable due to cost," Chung said. "If we are to reach our global climate goals by mid-century and reap the benefits of hydrogen, now is the time to act."

Youth homelessness effects over 4 million children in the U.S. each year.

Photo courtesy of Positive Tomorrows

This year during the Super Bowl, Kia will use their ad spot to shine light on the crisis of youth homelessness in the U.S. Each year, 4.2 million children in the U.S. experience some level of homelessness according to Covenant House.

In a commercial known as "Give it Everything" the company will showcase their charitable giving as well as bring awareness to the cause. For every yard gained during the game, Kia will donate $1,000 to three charity partners dedicated to solving the issue of youth homelessness: Covenant House, Positive Tomorrows, and StandUp for Kids.

Covenant House provides housing and support services to youth facing homelessness. The organizations workers use funds to help individuals find a path to independence.

"At Covenant House every day we see young people who have endured the trauma of living on the streets and the horrors of human trafficking," said Kevin Ryan, president, Covenant House. "But we are also privileged to see their courage, their goodness, their talent, and their amazing potential. This initiative by Kia will not only raise the funds we'll use to provide life-saving food, clothing, shelter and medical attention to youth overcoming homelessness. This 'Yards Against Homelessness' campaign will also educate millions of good people across the country and inspire them to do more. When our kids get this kind of support, there is nothing they cannot achieve. We are so grateful to Kia for shining a light on this issue."

Like Covenant House, Positive Tomorrows works to remove barriers for families that are homeless. Their efforts help them create a way to be independent.

StandUp for kids addresses the issues of homeless and street kids in cities across America. Their teams of volunteers go into the streets to help rather than wait for children to find them.

In terms of their Super Bowl commercials, Kia may be best known for their Telluride commercial starring a young boy from West Point, Georgia speaking about what the SUV's production means to the community. Tugging at heartstrings, the narrator says, "Because we are not known for who we are we hoped to be known for what we do," as the photography alternates between scenes from West Point and the 2020 Kia Telluride.