In an interview with Recode's Kara Swisher at the Nantucket Conference, Jeff Holden, Uber's chief product officer, said the the company is researching a technology known as VTOL, "vertical takeoff and landing," for short flights around cities.
While helicopters are technically VTOL too, Uber's VTOLs will have multiple rotors, possibly have fixed wings, could eventually use almost-silent batteries, and would ideally be autonomous. Holden pictures the VTOLs taking off from and landing on rooftops around a city. Basically, it'll be what Uber already is—except without the driver and without the traffic, which you'll fly right over. Not bad, huh?
With VTOLs transporting people above traffic congestion, Holden explained onstage, "It could change cities and how we work and live." Holden hopes that Uber "can someday offer our customers as many options as possible to move around," so VTOL makes sense because "doing it in a three-dimensional way is an obvious thing to look at."
Holden says the tech could be ready to use within ten years, but that almost certainly won't happen, especially since most current VTOL tech has been developed by the military.
Even if Uber can cop the technology soon, they'll still have to deal with regulations, which Uber has struggled with even before they started busting out self-driving cars, let alone self-driving taxi drones.