How Uber is getting flying cars off the ground

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It wants to fly you around cities as in the Jetsons, but there are still roadblocks to overcome before UberAir can take flight.

It’s 6 p.m. in Tokyo and my flying car is late. Three years late.

Back to the Future promised me flying cars (and hoverboards) by 2015. Yet here I am in 2018, standing in one of the world’s most high-tech cities and I have to walk. I don’t even get to do it in self-lacing shoes.

I’m in Tokyo for Uber Elevate, Uber’s third conference outlining its plans to get flying cars off the silver screen and into our skies in as little as two years. It’s a lofty ambition, but Uber has partnered with some big names in aviation and picked up its share of NASA alumni to help it get there.

The goal? UberAir. A future transport network in which air travel is as easy and on-demand as Uber rides are now. As simple as “push a button, get a flight.”

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Boring Company gets approval to build a tunnel connecting a garage to a hyperloop

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Elon Musk’s Boring Company continues to gain validation from city governments. In June, the company was selected to build a multibillion-dollar rapid transit link between downtown Chicago to O’Hare International Airport, and just this week, it got approval from the Hawthorne City Council in California to start building a prototype garage that would transport cars to an underground hyperloop.

A REAL-LIFE BATCAVE

The garage will be built on a private residence near SpaceX’s headquarters, which will be rented by the company. The Mercury News reports that, as part of the conditions of the approval, the test elevator will be closed to the public, and no cars will be able to move from the garage to the street in order to keep the project from impacting traffic. Instead, cars must start at SpaceX HQ and stay in the one-mile stretch of tunnel between the residence garage and the company. A sketch of the prototype, seen above, shows an elevator shaft that would lower cars into the tunnel that connects to the hyperloop. More than 100 residents have been notified of the project and assured that the noise would be minimal, but it’s to be seen how quiet drilling tunnels will actually be.

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Bombardier unveils a new battery-powered train

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Once actually somewhat common, battery-powered trains, especially full-size ones, are less common these days as third-rail-powered and diesel trains have gained in popularity.

Bombardier is unveiling a new battery-powered train in Berlin this week – “the first of its kind to enter passenger operation in Europe in over 60 years.”

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Volvo’s 360c concept car is a fully autonomous bedroom on wheels

Without a combustion engine or a steering wheel, Volvo reimagines the car as a short-haul flight replacement.

“In our striving for efficiency, have we lost empathy for the traveler?” These words, from Volvo’s launch video for its new 360c fully autonomous concept car, hit home with me. I fly a lot, so I’m fully familiar with efficient but unsympathetic forms of travel, and Volvo’s idea is to help people like me through the design of its future cars. The Volvo 360c is, like most concepts of our time, all-electric, fully autonomous, and covered by a big sweeping glass dome. What distinguishes it, though, is Volvo’s vision of how it fits into the broader scheme of city infrastructure, short-haul flights, working commutes, and environmental concerns.

Volvo’s product strategy chief Marten Levenstam says this car is “a conversation starter, with more ideas and answers to come as we learn more.” That leaves a lot of specifics yet to be determined, but Volvo does envision four basic usage scenarios for a car like its 360c. It can serve as a mobile bedroom, replacing red-eye flights with a smoother, calmer, quicker, and more environmentally friendly travel option. It can turn your work commute into a much more productive time, offering the connectivity and space of a mobile office. Or it can be your living room and entertainment space. A modular interior with relevant information projected onto the windows makes flexibility the overriding characteristic of the 360c’s functionality.

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Can we get into space without big rockets?

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Since humans began putting satellites into orbit in the 1950s, we’ve relied upon big, powerful rockets to escape Earth’s gravity and get into space. But big rockets have a major downside, in that they make space launches expensive. Case in point: NASA’s Space Launch System heavy lift rocket, which is scheduled for its maiden flight in December 2019, will cost an estimated $1 billion per launch, according to a 2017 report by NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). Launch costs for SpaceX’s far more economical Falcon Heavy, which launched successfully from Kennedy Space Center in February 2018, still range between $90 million and $150 million for a fully expendable, maxed-out version, according to CNBC.

For decades, however, visionaries have looked for ways to get into space without relying — at least not primarily — upon rocket power.

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A day in the life of a Waymo self-driving taxi

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Waymo is ready to start charging for its self-driving trips, but first, it needs to master the dreaded art of fleet management.

In a nondescript depot in suburban Arizona, the future of transportation is getting a tune-up. This is where Waymo, the self-driving unit of Google parent Alphabet, houses its growing fleet of self-driving cars: hundreds of Chrysler Pacifica minivans fitted with highly advanced hardware and software that enables them to safely ride on public roads without a human driver behind the wheel.

For over a year, Waymo has been offering trips to the 400-plus members of its Early Rider program who use Waymo’s ride-hailing app to summon the minivans for free trips to school, the mall, the gym, or elsewhere within its suburban Phoenix service area. Soon, Waymo will make that service available to the general public and it will start charging money for it, too. At the outset, the company plans on offering fully autonomous rides with a Waymo employee in the car only as a chaperone. And when that happens, it will make history as the first fully driverless taxi service in the world.

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4 futuristic transport methods that will change how we travel around the world

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Since the invention of air travel, the world has felt like a smaller place – it’s now possible for pretty much anyone to fly around the globe, learning about different countries and cultures. It’s pretty amazing.

But some companies aren’t satisfied with this – they want to make the world seem even smaller, with faster, more efficient and more comfortable methods of transport.

Ever dreamed of exploring the Australian Outback but been put off by the long flight? A Virgin Galactic flight from London to Sydney might take two hours within the next decade.

Here are four methods of futuristic transportation that are going to change how we travel around the world.

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Bird is the fastest startup ever to reach a $1 billion valuation

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Electric scooter startup Bird is the fastest company to reach a valuation of $1 billion.

Bird, one of many scooter startups currently sweeping the US, was last valued at $400 million after closing $100 million in series B funding in early March. In late May, Bird was reported to be raising $150 million in series C funding led by Sequoia Capital, at a $1 billion valuation.

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Chinese city signs up for hyperloop project

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The city of Tongren, in the southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou, has signed an agreement with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HyperloopTT) to develop the futuristic tube-travel system envisaged by Elon Musk.

HyperloopTT and Tongren Transportation & Tourism Investment Group announced the agreement yesterday, saying HyperloopTT would provide technology, engineering expertise and equipment, while Tongren will be responsible for certification, the regulatory framework and construction of the system.

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Flying trains could be coming your way

French firm has designed an airplane with removable wings.

It’s presenting plane to Boeing, Asia to cut Europe dependence.

It sounds like something Q, the tech guy in James Bond movies, would create: A plane that lands on a runway, shrugs its wings off, turns into a train and rolls on to rails to drop you off at your local station.

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Uber shows its flying car prototype, which looks like a giant drone

Uber has unveiled its “flying car” concept aircraft at its second annual Uber Elevate Summit, which showcases prototypes for its fleet of airborne taxis.

The flying cars, which the company hopes to introduce to riders in two to five years, will conduct vertical takeoffs and landings from skyports, air stations on rooftops or the ground. Ultimately, company officials say these skyports will be equipped to handle 200 takeoffs and landings an hour, or one every 24 seconds. At first, the flying cars will be piloted, but the company aims for the aircraft to fly autonomously.

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Electric scooter startup Bird is the fastest company to reach a valuation of $1 billion.

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Bird, one of many scooter startups currently sweeping the US, was last valued at $400 million after closing $100 million in series B funding in early March. In late May, Bird was reported to be raising $150 million in series C funding led by Sequoia Capital, at a $1 billion valuation.

People familiar with the deal told Quartz that at least three investors involved in that round—Sequoia, Accel, and Tusk Ventures—have already signed documents and wired money to Bird.

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