Flying taxis sound like a futuristic idea, but Uber wants to test the idea in Los Angeles by 2020. The traffic-laden city is the second city in the US, following Dallas-Fort Worth, to be selected as a test bed for UberAir’s network of air taxis.
Uber’s plan is to string together a network of electrical vertical take-off and landing vehicles, commonly called eVTOL, and make them available on-demand. Similar to helicopters, the eVTOL aircraft would take off and land on the tops of buildings and be able to cover distances more quickly and directly compared to cars stuck in traffic on Los Angeles congested roads.
According to Uber’s own analysis, a 200-mph all electric ride across Los Angeles would be “price competitive” to an UberX ride of the same distance. It will also be much faster than a car ride on the ground, Uber claims. In one example, Uber’s research predicts that an UberAir ride from Los Angeles International Airport to the Staples Center would take less than 30 minutes using UberAir. An UberX ride between the same distances generally lasts closer to an hour and a half.
“Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground,” Uber wrote in its white-paper on Uber Elevate, its name for the overall network, which it unveiled in October 2016.
In Los Angeles, Uber plans to partner with Sandstone Properties to develop take-off and landing hubs for its network of eVTOL planes and plans to bring on additional real estate partners ahead of the anticipated launch, the company said. In addition to Los Angeles, Uber is working to launch similar tests in Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai.
By the time the Olympics come to Los Angeles in 2028, Uber’s Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden said in a press release that he expects the service to be commercially available and already in “heavy use” by Los Angeles residents. At scale, the company envisions tens of thousands of flights happening in Los Angeles each day, according to Holden.
In April, Uber first announced that it had already signed on partners to produce the eVTOL aircraft to be used on the network, including Aurora Flight Sciences,Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, Mooney, and Bell Helicopter.
But the choice of Los Angeles also means Uber will be working in what’s also a hotbed for next-generation aerospace activity. Along with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites that’s developing Paul Allen’s massive Stratolaunch plane and Richard Branson’s new Virgin Orbit operation in Long Beach, the region is home to growing cluster of startups. These include Rocket Lab, Phase Four, Relativity, Whitinghill Aerospace, Masten Space Systems and Interorbital Systems. While Uber will be a new entrant into the already vibrant aerospace community, it’s already planning on holding its next aviation summit in Los Angeles in 2018.
“We are bringing UberAir to Los Angeles in no small part because Mayor Garcetti has embraced technology and innovation, making L.A. a hub for the future,” Holden said in the release. “In this case, technology will allow L.A. residents to literally fly over the city’s historically bad traffic, giving them time back to use in far more productive ways, whether more leisure time with friends and family or more time to work.” – ,
Apple Is Donating 9 Million Masks To Combat The Coronavirus
Topline: Apple will donate 9 million N95 protective masks to combat the coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence said on Tuesday, making Apple one of several California tech companies pitching in as hospitals across the country report a shortage of protective gear.
- Pence thanked Apple for agreeing to donate 9 million N95 respirator masks to healthcare facilities across the country during a press briefing on Tuesday.
- Pence’s remarks come after Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted over the weekend the company was “working to help source supplies for healthcare providers fighting COVID-19” and “donating millions of masks for health professionals in the US and Europe,” but did not offer more specifics.
- N95 respirators are masks that form a protective seal around a wearer’s mouth, filtering out at least 95% of particles in the air, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which makes them necessary to protect healthcare workers from being exposed to the disease from patients.
- Facebook has also said it is donating its stockpile of 720,000 masks purchased during the California wildfires last year, which degraded the air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Forbes asking if all of the donated masks were stockpiled because of the wildfires or if the company got them from somewhere else.
Chief critic: Teddy Schleifer, a reporter at Recode, wrote that health systems shouldn’t rely on the generosity of big tech companies to make up for the failures of the federal government.
“But there is a risk in relying on corporate philanthropy—rather than the government—in solving this problem. For starters, it depends on the voluntary generosity of these companies to deal with an unprecedented emergency, an altruism that could vanish at any time,” he wrote.
Crucial quote: “And I spoke today, and the president spoke last week, with Tim Cook of Apple. And at this moment in time Apple went to their store houses and is donating 9 million N95 masks to healthcare facilities all across the country and to the national stockpile,” Pence said.
Key background: Apple is one of several California tech companies to give away N95 masks. In addition to Facebook, Salesforce, Tesla and IBM have also announced mask donations.
News peg: Doctors and nurses are sounding the alarm that they don’t have enough masks to protect healthcare workers. Not only does inadequate protective gear put important frontline health workers at risk, public health experts say, any situation endangering medical personnel may only further depletes the U.S. health system which already doesn’t have enough capacity to handle a surge in cases. State officials in New York and Illinois have criticized President Donald Trump for not stepping in to force companies to manufacture masks or allocate masks from private companies to ensure that states don’t outbid each other for the same supplies.
–Rachel Sandler, Forbes Staff, Breaking News
Video Games Are Being Played At Record Levels As The Coronavirus Keeps People Indoors
Topline: With school closures, mandatory work-from-home policies and lockdowns taking place in the U.S. as a result of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, gaming has seen higher engagement, especially over this past weekend.
- Steam, the most popular digital PC gaming marketplace, reached new heights Sunday, drawing a record 20,313,451 concurrent users to the 16-year-old service, according to third-party database SteamDB.
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, released by Steam-owner Valve in 2012, seems to be the top beneficiary of the increased engagement, breaking it’s all-time peak on Sunday with 1,023,2290 concurrent players, topping its previous peak last month by a million, which itself beat the record set in April 2016.
- Like other esports, CS:GO has had to cancel events due to the virus, particularly the Intel Extreme Masters in Katowice earlier this month, though its peak viewership reached over a million, making it one of the most watched tournaments in the esports’ history.
- Activision Blizzard’s new free-to-play battle royale spinoff Call of Duty: Warzone, launched March 10 on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, is also likely benefiting, drawing in a staggering 15 million in three days, besting the record 10 million in three days by last year’s battle royale sensation Apex Legends.
- These new heights follows similar effects of the virus on China and Italy: Telecom Italia’s CEO told Bloomberg it saw a 70% increase in traffic over its landline network, with Fortnite playing a significant part, while Chinese live-streaming service Douyu experienced increased viewership of the country’s most popular games, according to market analyst Niko Partners.
- While gaming was considered “recession proof” during the 2008 market crash, stocks aren’t immune to the current historic drops: software developers like Activision Blizzard are facing a 9% decrease in price year-to-date, while hardware companies that rely on Chinese manufacturing like Nintendo are seeing bigger drops of 24%.
What To Watch For: If these records keep rising as the closings and lockdowns continue. Arriving this week is Nintendo’s long-awaited Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the Switch console, a relaxing “life-simulator” that’s set to have a big day with many fans not-so-jokingly asking Nintendo to launch early.
Surprising Fact: Plague Inc., a game that tasks players in creating a virus that wipes out humanity, surged in popularity late January, becoming the top-paid game on the Chinese app store at one point, but the game has now been removed in China at the direction of the government.
Amazon Hoping To Hire 100,000 New Employees To Deal With Coronavirus Demand
Topline: Amazon announced Monday that it would be opening 100,000 new full-time and part-time positions to deal with increased buying demand as people practice social distancing during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
- The company will also increase pay by $2 in the U.S. from its current $15 an hour, £2 in the UK and €2 in Europe for those working in fulfillment centers, transportation services, stores or people making deliveries, amounting to a total of $350 million.
- Amazon last Friday shared that the increase in online commerce has unsurprisingly resulted in shortages for household essentials and delays in shipment times.
- Monday’s statement also noted that “We continue to consult with medical and health experts, and take all recommended precautions in our buildings and stores to keep people healthy. We’ve taken measures to promote social distancing in the workplace and taken on enhanced and frequent cleaning, to name just a few.”
- Last week, Amazon told all of its employees to consider working from home if they could, according to CNBC; for its fulfillment centers and delivery services, it also launched a $25 million relief fund that lets workers diagnosed with the coronavirus apply for grants equal to two weeks pay, as well as unlimited unpaid time off for all hourly employees until the end of March.
- Amazon currently employs 250,000 people at 110 fulfillment centers.
News Peg: According to Johns Hopkins, 181,200 people have been infected with the coronavirus, with 7,115 deaths reported. School closures, lockdowns and curfews have been put in place to promote social distancing, with the White House today recommending to avoid groups of more than 10 people.
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