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In an unlikely partnership, NASA has sought the services of Uber to build air control software that will manage the flying taxis of the future.
Yes, flying taxis.
The partnership, announced today at WebSummit in Lisbon, is not beyond Uber’s personal ambitions either.
In April 2017, the company announced plans to launch a flying taxi programme — dubbed UberAIR — in Dubai and Dallas by 2020. Now Los Angeles will also be added to the roster.
Uber has also previously toyed with using helicopters in Cape Town in what was more a marketing stunt than feasible city transport solution, but the aircraft Uber intends to use will fly at low altitudes running on electric motors.
NASA calls its programme Urban Air Mobility, while Uber calls the vehicles it envisions EVTOLs (or Electric Vertical TakeOff and Landing aircraft).
“Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground,” the latter wrote in a whitepaper.
According to Uber’s CPO Jeff Holden, the flying taxis will attain speeds in excess of 320km/h and carry up to four people, cutting journey times across major cities.
Uber however won’t be constructing said aircraft. Instead, the company has partnered with a number of other manufacturers, including Boeing-owned Aurora and Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer to piece the equipment together.
EVTOLs are an especially novel concept to cut congestion within gridlocked cities as well.
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.
While testing will begin in 2020, Uber wants its flying taxi service to be as normal and affordable as ordering an UberX by 2023.
Feature image: screenshot, “Uber Elevate” via Uber/YouTube