Uber partners with NASA for flying taxi plan

Alan Olson
November 9, 2017

At the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Uber announced that it has signed a deal with NASA in order to develop traffic systems for its flying vehicle project that it hopes to finally get off the ground in 2020.

Uber aims to begin testing four-passenger taxis flying at 200-miles-per hour in Los Angeles by 2020.

The flying taxi project could drastically reduce trip times by avoiding traffic while remaining relatively low-cost. Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas and Dubai were announced as test cities in April of this year.

For Uber, the way around traffic is above it, and they released a new video showcasing how an aerial taxi service could make daily commuting more bearable for a working mom who's trying to get home to her kids.

Rides will be ordered through an app, similar to the taxi sharing service now in operation.

Uber has been involved with regulatory issues around the world over its app-based ride-sharing service, and is hoping to avoid similar problems over its air plans. And the Federal Aviation Administration must ensure that the aircraft meet safety regulations, not to mention how they'll fare alongside other aircraft.

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The partnership, announced today at WebSummit in Lisbon, is not beyond Uber's personal ambitions either. Instead the fleet of electric jet-powered vehicles will be developed by existing aircraft manufacturers, including Aurora Flight Services. On Wednesday, it confirmed that Los Angeles would also trial the scheme from 2020.

And it seems that Uber has been making the moves to ensure it will happen.

Uber is working with NASA to develop software for managing low-altitude air taxis, potentially opening the door for a future where people can travel short distances in the air rather than on the ground.

Uber Elevate said, about this endeavor, that developing infrastructure would be necessary to get their vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), and potentially autonomous, flying cars to operate seamlessly.

Now, the contract with NASA will help figure out how various aircraft, including drones, and possibly flying taxis, can coexist safely over urban areas.

The idea of flying cars isn't new, of course, but has been very slow to catch on - much slower than past generations had imagined.

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