Is this ‘Uber of the sky’ the answer to gridlock?
IT'S the futuristic 'air taxi' that's been touted as the 'Uber of the sky' and the answer to our road gridlock hell.
Texas-based helicopter company Bell unveiled the 'urban air taxi' - which looks like it's straight out of the Jetsons - at the world's biggest tech show CES in Las Vegas this week.
They say the congestion-busting air taxi will cut a 1.5 hour commute in a car to a six minute flight and - unlike helicopters - be affordable for the general public to ride.
The air taxi, which is like a drone crossed with a helicopter - has been designed to be quieter and more comfortable than a chopper.
It will use an electric or hybrid propulsion system and be fitted with a luxury interior including internet connection so people can work from the air.
Bell innovation manager Mike Ryan said as populations continued to grow and road infrastructure struggled under increasing congestion, more people would look to fly from A to B.
"Gridlock is here to stay and road infrastructure is unable to support our mobility needs," he said.
"We are asking 'what is your time worth?"
He said Bell envisaged air taxis would roll out at vertiports or helipads across cities where the public could book their transport just like they do on ride-sharing apps.
Bell is already in discussions with Uber about an air transportation network.
"Instead of selecting for an Uber Black, you'd choose Uber Air," he said.
"It would tell you the closest locations or spots to land … ideally in the future they'd be door-to-door and land in backyards."
Bell showed the 4-seater concept cabin this week and said, while the first taxis would be piloted, the company was working toward an autonomous model.
The cheaper operating costs and higher usage would make the service affordable for the public, although Mr Ryan was not able to put an amount on it.
Full scale testing is already underway and the company is on track to release a demonstrator air taxi by the mid 2020s.
Tanya Westthorp travelled to Las Vegas as a guest of Samsung.