Hyundai Steps into the UAM Space with a Bang at CES
Hyundai Motor Company and Uber Elevate showed us a fairly complete urban air mobility (UAM) electric vertical takeoff & landing (eVTOL) concept vehicle, autonomous pods, and a hub ecosystem that fits with Uber Elevate’s air taxi model at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020. Hyundai is the first Uber Elevate partner with automotive manufacturing capabilities to mass produce such electric aircraft and autonomous pods.
Hyundai’s and Uber Elevate’s UAM vision is to enable on-demand urban air mobility. Based on Hyundai’s Human-Centered City Advisory Group, established to study new values for future cities, the company showed a full-scale aircraft concept at CES and a surrounding ecosystem. The S-A1 eVTOL Personal Air Vehicle (PAV) takes off and lands on Hyundai Hubs connecting to an autonomous Purpose Built Vehicle (PBV).
I spoke to lead engineers at both Hyundai and Uber Elevate, who told me the pods rely on 18 wheels for full maneuverability in an urban environment. The autonomous pods connect to the hubs. Uber will provide airspace support services, connections to ground transportation, and customer interfaces through an aerial rideshare network. Both will continue to collaborate on the infrastructure. Hyundai will produce and deploy the S-A1 using its automotive manufacturing strength.
Jaiwon Shin, Executive Vice President and Head of Hyundai’s Urban Air Mobility (UAM) Division, told us at the press unveil that: “Our vision of Urban Air Mobility will transform the concept of urban transportation. We expect UAM to vitalize urban communities and provide more quality time to people. We are confident that Uber Elevate is the right partner to make this innovative product readily available to as many customers as possible.”
Eric Allison, head of Uber Elevate, added: “Hyundai is our first vehicle partner with experience of manufacturing passenger cars on a global scale. We believe Hyundai has the potential to build Uber Air vehicles at rates unseen in the current aerospace industry, producing high-quality, reliable aircraft at high volumes to drive down passenger costs per trip. Combining Hyundai’s manufacturing muscle with Uber’s technology platform represents a giant leap forward for launching a vibrant air taxi network in the coming years.”
Specifics on the S-A1 eVTOL
- speeds of up to 180 miles/hr (290 km/hr)
- cruising altitude of around 1,000 to 2,000 feet (300–600 mt)
- trips up to 60 miles (100 km)
- 100% electric
- distributed electric propulsion (DEP)
- 5 to 7 minutes for recharging
- piloted initially and eventually autonomous
- 4 passenger seats, up to 6 once autonomous
- 4 stationary rotors for takeoff and landing
- 4 tilting rotors to transition to wing-lift cruise
Hyundai’s Hub will be a public space “where diverse groups of people can come together.” What I was told is that the PBV will connect to one of the hub’s doors, where its users will have access to food, entertainment, medical facilities, and more.
Any Sci-Fi movies dating back from the 1960s have warned of such dystopian futures.
The UAM, PBV, and Hub aim to remove urban boundaries, according to Euisun Chung, Executive Vice Chairman of Hyundai Motor Group.
Hyundai Senior Research Engineer and a few people from Uber Elevate explained how the cabin is designed with four passenger seats and upgradable to six once the S-A1 becomes autonomous. The cabin allows riders to board and disembark easily without the dreaded middle seat, and with enough space for a personal bag or backpack per rider.
How serious is Hyundai with this Uber Elevate partnership? It is sinking a lot of money into it — more to follow on that. It also hired former NASA aeronautics director Jaiwon Shin earlier this year to run its UAM division. It is now implementing its brand vision, called “Progress for Humanity” to transform itself into a “Smart Mobility Solution Provider.” The vision is part of its “Strategy 2025” to shift its business structures based on two pillars – “Smart Mobility Device” and “Smart Mobility Service.” And you thought things couldn’t get any clearer for the future of our electric UAM mobility.
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