Auckland could be one of the first cities in the world to use Uber's electric aircraft, as the company works with Boeing to make flying taxis a reality.

The San Francisco-based ridesharing company is considering Auckland as a third city for the trial of Uber Air flights in 2020, and hopes to launch the service in 2023.

Dallas and Los Angeles will test the technology but Uber is looking for an international location also, with Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney in the running.

Uber head of product, advanced programmes and Elevate, Nikhil Goel said Auckland was chosen as a potential city to test its ridesharing flights as it was rapidly growing. The third test city could be announced by the end of the year.


Uber's custom helicopter-like aircraft, able to accommodate up to five people, are electric and cost between US$2-3 million each to make.

Boeing, Embraer, Bell, Pipistrel Aircraft and Karem Aircraft are currently manufacturing the aircraft.

Uber Air wants to be its own transport system "to support public transport".

Goel said Uber would meet government and aviation officials over the next couple of days to discuss plans and seek support to develop infrastructure for its proposed "skyports" - landing and take-off pads - to be located on the tops of buildings or next to transport hubs.

"Imagine going from the CBD to the Airport, at peak, that's an hour in a car, by UberAir that would only be eight minutes or with Waiheke Island, that's a 40-minute ferry ride but by Air it's only six minutes.

"Auckland CBD to Albany in the North Shore, again, an hour 15 minutes by car and only seven or eight minutes by air," he said.

"Air-pooling" would be expensive at launch, Goel said, costing around $12 per 1.6 kilometres flown - about half the price of a helicopter flight - but aimed to align that with the price of an UberX over time.

"Over time, our projections indicate that this will be a mass-transit service and a meaningful form of transportation," he said.


He said Uber was eyeing large skyports that can accommodate 1000 flights per hour. "We can leverage the use of carparks, leverage the use of tops of buildings and infrastructure that already exists, we don't need large parcels of land.

"Uber Air will serve trips where time-savings provide a massive potential."

Uber could be testing its flying taxis in New Zealand as early as 2020. Photo / Supplied
Uber could be testing its flying taxis in New Zealand as early as 2020. Photo / Supplied

Ministry of Transport manager of policy and innovation Richard Cross said it had an initial discussion with Uber about the potential for it to operate flying taxis locally.

"New Zealand is seen as an attractive place to test and trial these solutions because of our supportive environment for R&D, relatively uncrowded skies, trusted regulatory regime, and because New Zealand is a good place to do business," Cross said.

"The Government supports innovative transport solutions that have the potential to contribute to a safe, secure, sustainable and resilient transport system."

Cross said there was "work to be done" to ensure flying taxis could operate in New Zealand.

"In the future, we may well see integration of new aviation services like Uber Air and other services into the existing aviation system – but there's still lots of work to be done to ensure this can be done safely, that the right infrastructure is in place, and we preserve the peace and privacy of people on the ground.

"The introduction of a new mode will also include the wider impacts on individuals, communities, businesses and the natural environment that need to be taken into account. We are well placed to meet these challenges."

Nikhil Goel, Uber head of product and advanced programs. Photo / Supplied
Nikhil Goel, Uber head of product and advanced programs. Photo / Supplied

US aviation company Kitty Hawk has been testing its fully electric self-piloting flying taxis named Cora in Canterbury since October last year.

Kitty Hawk, funded by Google co-founder Larry Page, brought the project to New Zealand following strict US Government regulations around autonomous vehicles. The company reportedly reached an agreement with the Government to allow it to test the aircraft in the South Island.

"Cora has already announced that they will be doing trial flights in Canterbury and that's exciting because that means they've been able to get that traction with local governments here," Goel said.

"We're tremendously excited to be in Auckland because what we've seen from the regulators Down Under is very promising, and that gets us excited about potentially launching the service here."