Apparently Moore won’t be constructing an actual flying car system just yet but will instead work on addressing isolated problems specific to Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft like “noise pollution, vehicle efficiency, and limited battery life,” Bloomberg notes.
Moore has been thinking about flying cars for more than a decade—he wrote a white paper about “Personal Air Vehicles” (PDF) in 2003. A good system for shorter-distance flight, Moore wrote at the time, would evolve from the airport-based system we have now. But bringing the technology to market would require thinking about “ease of use, automated airspace control, affordable propulsion, economically viable concepts, low community noise, modern certification procedures, and near-all-weather capability while achieving a factor of ten improvement in small aircraft safety.”
Uber writes that the benefit of the VTOL system is that it doesn’t have to adhere to a specific route and can circumvent a bottleneck much more easily than a car can. In addition, “VTOL aircraft will make use of electric propulsion so they have zero operational emissions and will likely be quiet enough to operate in cities without disturbing the neighbors,” Uber wrote in October. “At flying altitude, noise from advanced electric vehicles will be barely audible.” The company envisioned “vertiports” between which personal air vehicles would ferry commuters that would normally drive 45-90 minutes to get to work each day. (Think of it as buses or light rail systems, but faster and in the sky.)
Bloomberg wrote that Moore left NASA at some personal expense just a year before he’s eligible for retirement and therefore able to receive a larger pension and free healthcare for the rest of his life. It’s unclear what Uber offered Moore to drawn him away, but Moore told Bloomberg that he wants “to be in the right place at the right time to make this market real.”
In a statement e-mailed to Ars, Nikhil Goel, Uber’s Head of Product for Advanced Programs, wrote “Uber continues to see its role as a catalyst to the growing developing VTOL ecosystem. We’re excited to have Mark join us to work with companies and stakeholders as we continue to explore the use case described in our white paper.”