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Sen. Ted Cruz is eager to take Uber’s air taxi but wishes it could bring him ‘decent Mexican food’ – Dallas News

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz praised Uber’s innovative spirit, saying its initiative to launch an urban air taxi service illustrates the power of free enterprise — and the dangers of socialism.

“Socialism doesn’t work,” he said. “One of the reasons socialism doesn’t work is it stifles innovation. It calcifies the socioeconomic strata, so if you’re rich, you stay rich. If you’re poor, you stay poor.”When he worked at the Federal Trade Commission under President George W. Bush, Cruz said he watched as brick-and-mortar retailers tried to team up with government regulators to trip up the rise of e-commerce. He said that pattern tends to repeat itself, but, he said, “it is that creative destruction that drives the innovation in America.”

Sen. Ted Cruz 

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Cruz was among the politicians and federal officials who spoke at a two-day summit about Uber Elevate, the San Francisco-based company’s effort to launch an aerial ridesharing service that would make it possible for people to travel through the skies. The conference drew about 1,500 tech employees, aviation executives and policymakers from 31 countries. It featured speeches by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and the Federal Aviation Administration’s acting administrator, Dan Elwell.Cruz has championed the aviation and commercial space industry as the chairman of Congress’ Subcommittee on Aviation and Space. He said Texas is already a force in the aviation and space industries. And, he said, he’s already offered a wager to some of Uber’s leaders that Texas will have urban air taxis before its frequent rival, California. 

Dallas and Los Angeles will be the first markets for Uber Air. Melbourne will be its first international market.

“I said, ‘I will bet you almost any sum of money that Dallas is going to prove orders of magnitude easier to stand this up and get this business moving than L.A. is,’ ” Cruz said.

The Bell Nexus concept vehicle was shown at the Uber Elevate Summit.

(EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)

Visitors sit inside the Bell Nexus concept vehicle at the Uber Elevate Summit Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

(EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images)

Two years ago, Uber laid out its vision for Uber Elevate at a summit in Dallas and announced that the city would be among its first markets. It has set an aggressive timetable for the effort. Uber wants to demonstrate the urban air taxis next year and launch their first commercial use in a small number of cities, including Dallas, in 2023.

The urban air taxis are called vertical take-off and landing vehicles. Each electric-powered urban air taxi will have a pilot in the front seat and will travel 25- to 60-mile trips. Four riders will share a vehicle, similar to the company’s Uber Pool shared car service on the ground. In the future, Uber wants the urban air taxis to be autonomous.

The urban air taxis are expected to travel between 150 and 200 miles per hour at a cruising altitude of 1,000 to 2,000 feet above the ground. That’s higher than a drone but slower and lower than a commercial airplane. Fort Worth-based Bell and five other aviation companies are developing vehicles for the service. They’ve taken different shapes, from designs that look similar to a helicopter to ones that look like a large drone.

When Cruz was first elected as senator in 2012, he said he figured he’d have to get an apartment and a car in Washington, D.C. For four months, he paid rent for a parking spot that sat empty. He said he soon ditched the idea of getting a private car, relying instead on rides in a staffer’s car or hailing rides around town in an Uber.He said he admired how Uber has turned formerly parked cars into valuable assets and transformed drivers into “a million small businesses.”

But, Cruz said, Uber may not be able to fulfill one of his wishes, even as its food delivery business Uber Eats teams up with McDonald’s to deliver Big Macs and fries by drone. “I’d love to get decent Mexican food in D.C., but that would be a long flight,” he said.

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