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A model of Uber's electric vehicle takeoff. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

Uber's IPO prospectus highlights $457 million in spending last year on its Advanced Technologies Group and other initiatives, including the flying car program called Uber Elevate: "Our initial efforts through Uber Elevate focus on shared air transportation between suburbs and cities, with the goal of ultimately addressing air transportation within cities."

The big picture: Flying electric cars could play a "niche role" in sustainable transportation, but using them for short commutes would not be climate-friendly, a recent study in Nature Communications concludes.

Why it matters: In addition to Uber, companies including Boeing are developing vertical takeoff and landing vehicles (VTOLs). Deployment timelines are uncertain, but it's no longer a distant fantasy.

  • University of Michigan and Ford researchers compared emissions from hypothetical VTOLs with ground-based cars.

What they found: Trip length matters a lot. VTOLs use lots of energy to gain altitude, but then run more efficiently.

  • For trips of 100 kilometers, or 62 miles, a VTOL with a pilot and 3 passengers would generate 52% fewer emissions per "passenger kilometer" than an internal combustion car and 6% less than an EV. (That result assumes 1.54 occupants per ground car.)
  • Overall, VTOLs are better than gas-powered cars for trips of around 22 miles or more. But for the average commute of around 11 miles, it doesn't make sense from a climate standpoint.
  • The LA Times has a good look here.

What they're saying: "The implications are we shouldn't use VTOLs for urban taxis, but rather for longer trips inside or outside of a metropolitan area," Carnegie Mellon University's Costa Samaras, who was not involved in the study, tells Axios.

  • He notes internal combustion cars sold today will be around for 20 years, and believes VTOLs for some passenger and freight uses will arrive in that window.
  • "[W]e should be thinking about policies to encourage sustainability, safety, and livability with urban air mobility systems pretty soon," he said in an email.

Go deeper: A sky full of driverless flying cars in just a decade

Go deeper

Tech scrambles to derail inauguration threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

Dave Lawler, author of World
4 hours ago - World

Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

Wine rejected the official results of the election. Photo: Sumy Sadruni/AFP via Getty

Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”