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NASA is working with Uber on its flying taxi project

10 November 2017

Uber has teamed up with NASA to develop an air-traffic control system, covering low-altitude airspace rather than outer space.

A man hails an Uber in London. (In São Paulo, where the wealthy frequently use helicopters to avoid the city's infamous gridlock, Uber already offers chopper rides at about $63 each).

"Technology will allow LA residents to literally fly over the city's historically bad traffic", Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden said in a press release that also quoted Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti praising the project. The introduction of such machines into operation, the developers plan to 2023.

Testing of this mode of transport will begin to run in 2020 in Los Angeles.

Instead of a vast highway system of flying cars like we were promised in Back to the Future 2, UberAir instead wants to bring on-demand electric flying taxis to Los Angeles and Dallas-Fort Worth by 2020.

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So, we've regularly laughed off the notion of VTOLs because they're always just two years away.

The partnership, announced today at WebSummit in Lisbon, is not beyond Uber's personal ambitions either.

Uber's air travel initiative was announced last October with the promise of putting an end to long commutes, letting passengers hail an aircraft ride with the push of a button. There is also now no infrastructure to support such a fleet. And the Federal Aviation Administration must ensure that the aircraft meet safety regulations, not to mention how they'll fare alongside other aircraft.

But some experts don't think Uber is being overly ambitious.

The plan is feasible from a technology perspective, but from a regulatory one it could take several years.

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So How Do They Make This Happen?

The company says it's working with regulators in Europe and the U.S.to make this vision a reality.

Uber has also signed an agreement with Los Angeles' Sandstone Properties, a real estate investment company, to develop Skyport take-off and landing terminals.

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 company is working on that.

It expects to cut down a journey time of one hour and twenty minutes down to less than half an hour including transfers to and from the take-off and landing points.

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NASA is working with Uber on its flying taxi project