Uber proves itself unworthy to lead path on flying cars

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Movies like “Back to The Future Part II” and TV shows such as “The Jetsons” have cemented a view of the future as a place with smart-watches, robot assistants and, of course, flying cars. The modern world abounds with the iconography of the future. We now have access to the sophistication of the Apple Watch and the convenience of vacuum Roombas, but the dream of flying cars has always seemed too distant. 

No longer. 

Uber announced last Tuesday it plans to bring flying cars — known as their “Uber Elevate Network” — to Dallas-Fort Worth by 2020. Uber’s futuristic fleet is advertised to have vertical takeoff and landing capabilities, and is being built to be as silent as possible to abide by noise pollution rules. Additionally, Uber insists that these air taxis will be economically convenient, marketing their “Uber Elevate Network” as “a cheap alternative to building new roads and expanding public transit.” 

To some, the idea of ascending rush hour traffic for a convenient price (this so-called convenient price has yet to be advertised) excites. But this Uber Elevate Network is a horribly bad idea. If flying cars must indeed be our future, Uber, with its lack of adherence to rules, is the last company we want leading the way. 

Aviation is a field that requires strict adherence to safety standards and regulations, and Uber has shown itself to be a company with little regard for rules. There is a pervasive propensity for overstepping bounds within this company, pushed by their CEO, Travis Kalanick, that should not be tolerated on our roads and much less in our skies. 

A recent article released in The New York Times reveals that Kalanick has been dragging Uber employees with him as he criss-crosses over privacy lines and barrels through boundaries. Led by Kalanick, employees were directed to secretly identify and tag iPhones after the Uber app was deleted, flouting Apple’s privacy guidelines. And Uber violates not just the policies of companies, but the law itself. In another example of dangerous tactics, Uber used a program called Greyball, a method of digital concealment, to help drivers hide from law enforcement in places where Uber service was illegal. 

DFW has been a place where aviation has flourished for years, with companies like American Airlines, Southwest and Bell Helicopters setting up headquarters there. It makes sense that DFW desires to maintain its status as an air transportation capital and to head the impressive and potentially lucrative field of flying cars. But they ought to pick a different partner. Flying is one of the safest forms of transport because of the wealth of rules enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration and the transponders which help planes communicate with each other to avoid collision. We are entering terribly treacherous territory if we put flight in the hands of a company that has flouted safety rules digitally hidden its vehicles to avoid detection. 

If flying cars do indeed happen, we could see such gems as a “Fast and the Furious” movie that takes place entirely in the stratosphere and have the privilege of watching a stream of winged SUVs zoom overhead during rush hour. But, in our excitement for the future of flight, we should not let Uber’s criminal company practices go unchecked.

Doan is a Plan II and English sophomore from Fort Worth.