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Uber shortlists Japan as a candidate country to test flying taxis

Kyodo

Uber Technologies Inc. said Thursday it will choose a city from one of five countries, including Japan, to test flying taxi services that the ride-hailing firm aims to launch commercially in 2023.

The other candidate countries are Australia, Brazil, France and India, the company said. The city selection will be finalized within six months and demonstration flights are planned to start in 2020.

Uber picked the five countries based on criteria such as population and lack of extreme weather. The U.S. firm noted that Japan has one of the most advanced public transportation systems.

Dallas and Los Angeles have already been selected for the trial.

The three cities will be the first to host Uber’s tests of flying taxi services.

Barney Harford, chief operating officer of Uber, said in Tokyo that the firm’s flying taxi, or uberAIR, will be a new efficient means of transportation that saves a lot of time.

The company plans to develop electric flying cars, with the capability of traveling 96 kilometers on a single charge, that can take off and land vertically. It aims to have the cars travel at a top speed of 320 kph at an altitude of 300 to 600 meters.

Japan has thrown its support behind the development of flying cars and launched a public-private council in hopes that the new vehicles will play a transportation role in mountainous areas and remote islands as well as in the event of natural disasters.

The council held its first meeting on Wednesday and was joined by over 20 experts and businesses including ANA Holdings Inc., Subaru Corp. and Uber, with the aim of drawing up a road map within a year and putting flying cars into practical use in the 2020s.