Well, here’s a team-up I didn’t see coming: the United States Army and . . .
. . . Uber.
I know what you’re thinking, but, no, the following scenario will not be played out in Afghanistan:
- Soldier #1: According to the app, our Uber driver, Ahmad, will be picking us up here in Arghandab at 31.6547°N 65.6494°E in about a half hour because he’s in Kanduhar now.
- Soldier #2: I never remember: do we tip with cash?
But while Ahmad may not be driving his 2013 Ford Fusion to extract U.S. soldiers, he may be flying there.
That’s because the project Uber is working on with the U.S. Army is flying cars.
And best of all, these airborne autos won’t be just for military use. Soon we’ll all be flying around in our Camrys before we drop from the sky like dead pigeons because none of us know how to fly.
According to a joint release from Uber and the Army’s Research, Development and Engineering Command, they expect to spend $1 million to develop and test prototypes for a rotor system that would be used on a vertical take-off and landing vehicle.
You may now be asking two questions about that statement:
QUESTION #1. “Vertical take-off and landing vehicle”–um, isn’t that a helicopter?
You are correct. But Uber and the Army have determined that there are instances when a helicopter is a poor solution for vertical take-offs and landings, such as when the army desires not to draw attention to itself with excessive noise, or when some moron summons an Uber from an underground parking garage.
Uber actually does intend to use these things as taxis, possibly as a replacement for their self-driving cars, which have been driving themselves into things and people on a regular basis. “Achieving ultra-low noise is one of the critical obstacles to deploying aerial taxis in urban areas,” said Rob McDonald, head of vehicle engineering for Uber Elevate, the company’s flying car operation.
Yes, that would definitely be one of the critical obstacles, along with enticing people to get into a car-o-copter with Greg, who is flying for Uber part-time in addition to his day job as a bicycle messenger.
Plus, judging from the artist renderings handed out by Uber, I’m guessing that, in addition to making the flying car quieter, they would also need to make it a good deal smaller. Somehow, I can’t see this thing landing on Broadway and 38th Street to pick up a passenger.
And I think Homeland Security might have something to say about having all these cars flying around tall buildings.
QUESTION #2. I’m sorry, but did you say they were spending $1 million on development of the flying car? Doesn’t it cost the Army more than that to develop a hammer?
I see where you’re going with that question, and I agree that $1 million doesn’t seem like a lot to spend on developing an Aerojeep. In fact, I was sure it was a typo that was missing several zeroes, but I checked a number of stories, and they all said $1 million. Of course, in these times when journalism mostly consists of cutting and pasting stuff from one website to another, it’s quite possible that the site I cut and pasted it from had cut and pasted it from another site that got it wrong.
On the other hand, if that figure is accurate, it indicates that neither Uber nor the Army is making a huge commitment to the vertical take-off and landing vehicle market. It’s more like, “Here’s a few bucks; see what you can do with it.” After all, the cost of developing a new regular car model starts at $1 billion, and that can result in something like the Fiat 500 Pop, which can barely make it up a hill, much less take to the air.
In conclusion, it really doesn’t sound like you’ll be picked up at the restaurant by a Fluber anytime soon. But if it does come to pass, I want full credit (and royalties) for creating the word “Fluber™.”
See you soon.