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Uber in talks with Govt to elevate flying-taxi regulations

Uber Elevate is an umbrella term for the company's initiatives to launch Uber Air, which include its aerial electric ride-hailing service and other ancillary air transport.

, ET Bureau|
Jun 13, 2019, 08.51 AM IST
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WASHINGTON DC: Ride-hailing firm Uber has begun talks with the government to usher in a regulatory framework for flying taxis in the country, a top company executive told ET.

Over the last one year, the San Francisco-based company has held conversations with regulators in India and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said Nikhil Goel, head of product, aviation at Uber, in an interaction with ET on the sidelines of an Uber Elevate event here.

Uber Elevate is an umbrella term for the company's initiatives to launch Uber Air, which include its aerial electric ride-hailing service and other ancillary air transport, for instance, food delivery.

Goel said Uber had also held discussions with former aviation minister Jayant Sinha to build aerial mobility infrastructure and framework, which have been positively received. “From a regulatory perspective, India has had a great start to aerial mobility, with the drone regulation being passed, so the future looks a lot more promising,” he said. “The next step is to take a look at what the Federal Aviation Administration in the US and EASA (European Union Aviation Safety Agency) in Europe are doing with regard to passenger travel and decide on taking steps for that too,” he said.

The developments come a year after Uber revealed plans to launch Uber Air project in international markets including India, Japan, France, Brazil and Australia. Uber Elevate head Eric Allison said Uber Air will be launched in India over the next 5-10 years. “India has this amazing way of leapfrogging, and even if they are not the first one to adopt technology, they are definitely the quickest to get the most advanced technologies,” Goel said.

Commenting on pricing its Uber Air product in an emerging market such as India, Goel said it would need to arrive at the right price point for such a service in India. “And it is really compelling to us because India has so much of the world’s population,” he said.

The biggest challenge for Uber’s Air initiative will be regulatory compliances, primarily related to safety of passengers, infrastructure upgrades needed for scale and scarcity of trained pilots in the system.

The adoption process for new aircraft concepts has not been very quick by governments globally.

(The correspondent is in Washington DC at the invitation of Uber Technologies)

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