Last week Uber announced to the world that the first non-US city to trial its brand-new Uber Air service would be Melbourne, Australia.
The Victorian capital will join US cities Los Angeles and Dallas in a pilot of Uber Air flights, with commercial operations expected to roll out in 2023.
Air Taxis: “same price as an UberX”
The announcement was made at Uber’s Elevate summit in Washington after the deal was sealed with Melbourne Airport, Macquarie Capital, Scentre Group and Telstra.
According to the company, its vision for Uber Air is to transport people around the city for the same cost as an UberX trip over the same distance.
“Australian governments have adopted a forward-looking approach to ridesharing and future transport technology,” said Uber Australia, New Zealand and North Asia Regional General Manager, Susan Anderson.
“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.
“We will see other Australian cities following soon after.”
10 minutes to Melbourne Airport
The Air Taxi service is expected to operate similar to a helicopter, except more quietly and efficiently. Passengers will travel in electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft known as VTOLs.
The service will operate via the Uber app, allowing passengers to travel across a network of landing pads called ‘Skyports’.
Given Melbourne’s city-to-airport rail link is still in the development stage, Uber Air offers an appealing interim solution for Melbourne’s commuters until the railway link is built.
“The 19km journey from the CBD to Melbourne Airport can take anywhere from 25 minutes to around an hour by car in peak hour, but with Uber Air this will take around 10 minutes,” Uber Elevate Global Head Eric Allison said.
Private car ownership: ‘unsustainable’
Uber, which has already achieved market dominance in the ride-sharing market for on-road vehicles, is now looking to pioneer the same service – in the skies. Underlying this market expansion is the company’s belief that in future, people will be less reliant on their own cars.
“As major cities grow, the heavy reliance on private car ownership will not be sustainable,” Mr Allison said at the Elevate Summit.
Alongside Uber’s popularity surge, ride-sharing in other forms has also risen to prominence in our inner capital cities, particularly on the eastern seaboard. Companies like GoGet and Car Next Door are growing their membership base. Car dealers have also entered the market, offering car sharing of new vehicles, in a bid to attract millennials who are driving the shift away from private car ownership.
Holden, for example, launched its ‘Maven’ car sharing service in Australia two years ago, which offers authorised drivers the ability to rent a new car hourly, daily or weekly – and swap different types of vehicles to suit specific needs.
“One of the key benefits of Maven is its capacity to help broaden the appeal of driving for young people, many of whom are apparently less interested in vehicle ownership or getting a licence until later in life,” General Motors, Director of Urban Mobility and Maven Australia Head, Anthony Reimann told SMH.
Ride-sharing – impact on affordability
With multiple alternative options available over and above public transport, many inner-city residents are now willing to forego a car parking space at home.
For studio or 1-bedroom apartment buyers, a parking space can add a significant additional cost to the purchase price as well – impacting affordability.
City of Sydney is currently leading the charge with car-sharing spots. Close behind – and neck and neck – are Sydney’s Inner-west Council and Melbourne City Council.
The Sydney Inner-west council has 80 car spots currently and is working with GoGet to roll out an additional 20 more as part of a pilot program integrating car share with the light rail. It’s one of almost 50 councils GoGet has partnered with.
“If you reduce requirements for parking in new development you increase affordability of housing significantly,” said Sydney Inner-west Council Mayor, Darcy Byrne.
Tesla, Audi car-sharing in Australia
With this shift in mind, more developers are now offering integrated car sharing solutions in new apartment buildings. In Sydney’s Central Park for instance, Domain reports 700 residents, or one in 10, are car-share members utilising about 50 spaces in GoGet SuperPods at the One Central Park and Duo buildings.
Other developers are opting for premium car sharing services exclusive for residents’ use. For example, in Aria Property Group’s ‘The Standard’ apartment development in South Brisbane, residents will be able to rent one of three Teslas for their personal use.
Residents will be able to car share one of three Teslas in Aria Property Group’s ‘The Standard’ apartment building
Western Australia’s first ever car-sharing service was unveiled as part of Fini Group’s ‘Stirling Cross’ apartment building. Two GreenShareCar Audis are parked at the building, where they can be hired by the hour, inclusive of insurance and petrol costs by Stirling Cross residents.
With Uber’s Air Taxi in the mix of ride-share options, is the future apartment tower also equipped with a resident’s exclusive-use Skyport? Time will tell.
The future of the world’s 2nd most liveable city
According to the Victorian Government, Melbourne was selected by Uber Air following an 18-month process and was chosen for its status as being Australia’s leading tech city, its diverse and talented labour pool and ranking as one of the world’s most liveable cities.
The launch of Uber Air would not only bring a new industry to Melbourne, further contributing to the city’s economy and appeal, it may also have broader implications for the types of property people choose to live in or buy. A trend we will continue to watch closely.
“We’re thrilled that Melbourne has been chosen to partner with Uber Elevate to help start, nurture and grow what could become a new industry, revolutionising travel across the world,” said Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.
“The future of transport is coming to Melbourne, giving us a flying start to capitalise on new opportunities that emerge as this industry takes off.”
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