Ride-hailing app Uber, which is considering India among five global locations for its futuristic aerial taxi service, Thursday said it is in talks with regulators in the country to gauge the modalities and constraints of offering such a service.
Last week, the Softbank-backed Uber had said it is considering India along with countries like Japan and France to be a part of Uber Elevate -- its aerial taxi service that could be launched in the next five years.
Uber has already named Dallas and Los Angeles as its first two launch cities in the US and has been on the prowl to select an international city as its third partner.
Uber head of Elevate, Eric Allison, said the company is looking at large Indian cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru as potential candidates.
"...there are different challenges in each of these places and so we are talking to the regulators...officials... understanding what the tradeoffs are in terms of different geographic and regulatory constraints," he told PTI.
The company is meeting representatives from various ministries like civil aviation, as well as local authorities and thought leaders to explore options.
Uber has shortlisted five countries -- India, Japan, Australia, Brazil and France -- and one of them will become the first Uber Air City outside of the US, Uber said in a statement recently.
Allison said while the service may be premium at the beginning, the attempt will be to bring the rates at par with its offering like Uber X.
Asked about India's chances of being selected finally, Allison said, "All of these countries (shortlisted nations) are very important to us and these are businesses where we are investing a lot in."
Uber has already said it hopes to start operating demonstrator flights in 2020 and begin commercial operations in 2023 in the three cities, depending on the regulatory clearances.
Allison said Uber Elevate would make a lot of sense for cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru that are among the most congested cities in the world and where travelling even a few kilometers can take over an hour.
Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said Thursday that the drone policy unveiled last month will make air taxi operations in India a reality soon.
Uber believes that its aerial service has tremendous potential to help create a transportation option that bypasses congestion, instead of adding to it.
The company had said its final decision, which will take about six months, will be based on factors like size of the market, and availability of enabling conditions. Uber Elevate will also take into account a third criteria of local commitment, where it will work with respective governments and communities to make the dream project a reality.
Uber plans to use vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft for the service. A fancy video by the company depicts the future scenario where riders book an aerial ride from their smartphones and hop onto the VTOLs via helipads atop a high-rise.