SAN FRANCISCO — Just a few weeks ago, Uber's chief product officer, Jeff Holden, stood on stage in Los Angeles and hailed the company's coming age of flying taxis.
But now it's Holden who has taken flight, leaving for an unknown opportunity, Uber said Friday.
Holden was a hold out from Uber's early days, and according to Recode, which first reported the news, while he was considered as a man of vision he also had a tough time managing people and was known as a top lieutenant to ousted CEO Travis Kalanick.
Holden also was integral to helping Kalanick create some of the company's more controversial and aggressive business mantras and policies, Recode noted. Those policies are being gradually dismantled by new CEO Dara Khosrowshashi, whose recent Uber commercial highlights the company's new "do the right thing" mission statement.
Holden's role overseeing Uber's flying taxi program — which was in the spotlight at the company's annual Elevate conference in L.A. earlier this month — will be taken over by Eric Allison, who was hired in March and formerly was CEO of flying car company Zee Aero.
“As demonstrated by last week’s Uber Elevate Summit, we’re incredibly bullish on the future of aerial ridesharing," said Uber spokesperson Matt Wing. "Under the leadership of Eric Allison, the Elevate team is set up for success and will continue to chart the course for this growing industry.”
While the idea of flying cars sounds almost cartoonish, the reality is that the technology exists to create battery-powered, four passenger-plus pilot craft that use rotating wing propellers for vertical take-offs and landing.
Uber has proposed that such aircraft take off from dedicated rooftop launch pads, and has suggested that at scale such rides would not cost that much more than a premium Uber car ride, while shaving 70% off the travel time.
But hurdles abound, including regulatory approval (consider that drones as yet don't have the green light to take over our skies for deliveries) and public support (the notion of such craft crashing overhead gives most people pause).
That hasn't stop Uber from pitching its latest transportation revolution, which eventually would find these flying taxis being piloted not by humans but computers.
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