Published: Thu, November 09, 2017
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Uber working with NASA to make flying taxis a reality

Uber working with NASA to make flying taxis a reality

The company also announced it has signed an agreement with NASA to develop a specialized air traffic control system for the network.

In interviews with the USA media overnight, including Bloomberg, Jeff Holden, Uber's chief product officer, confirmed the ride-hailing company had signed an agreement to work with NASA on "unmanned traffic management" systems.

UberAir-the official name of this endeavor-will be tested in Dallas-Fort Worth, Dubai, and Los Angeles.

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The flying taxi project could drastically reduce trip times by avoiding traffic while remaining relatively low-cost. As Wired reported in April when Uber announced its 2020 goal, there's a lot standing in the company's way before it can become the ride-sharing king of the sky. Today, he added Los Angeles to the mix.

Uber has been involved with regulatory tussles around the globe over its app-based taxi service, and is hoping to avoid similar rows over its air plans.

Traveling at a hurtling 322 kph, an 80-minute commute in rush hour commute will be reduced to four in their soaring four-passenger vehicles, Uber says. Then, there's the lack of infrastructure fundamental for their support.

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For Los Angeles - one of the world's most congested cities - it also makes a world of sense, especially in light of the city's hosting of the 2028 Olympic Games. Uber doesn't think so. Eventually, these vehicles-like Uber's boring old cars and SUVs-could be operated without a driver.

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

The UberAir transport system will take advantage of the unmanned aerial vehicle traffic management system, or UTM, which is being developed by NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and other partners. It was finding someone who could develop a business case to build a whole ecosystem supporting flying cars and make the expense of developing the technology worthwhile.

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This is not the first time we're hearing of Uber's flying-car plans, or the first time it's leaned on NASA expertise for help in attempting to realize this vision. At the time, Moore predicted flying cars in the skies within one to three years.

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