Uber contracts with NASA to develop technology for flying taxis

Uber plans to launch UberAIR in LA in 2020.                  Uber

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.

The ride-hailing service published details of its "on demand aviation" ambitions past year which it has called Uber Elevate.

Chief product officer Jeff Holden also said Uber would begin testing fourpassenger, 322 km per hour flying taxi services across Los Angeles in 2020, its second test market after Dallas/Fort Worth.

Uber is already testing another emerging technology, self-driving cars, in various cities around the country.

Uber noted it does not plan to make the cars themselves, but will instead partner with multiple manufacturers for prototype vertical takeoff and lander vehicles.

It hopes to launch UberAir before the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

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"Technology will allow L.A. residents to literally fly over the city's historically bad traffic, giving them time back to use in far more productive ways", Holden said in comments shared with USA TODAY. Holden tells Bloomberg that, once UberAir is in full swing, there will be an "unprecedented amount of air traffic flying over cities". Uber said it signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA for the development of "unmanned traffic management".

Holden said: "Doing this safely and efficiently is going to require a foundational change in airspace management technologies". Los Angeles-based Tesla CEO Elon Musk has even started a new venture, The Boring Company, which plans to drill tunnels beneath cities. The construction of what is essentially a miniature helicopter or large drones has been conducted by two Nasa veterans, Mark Moore and Tom Prevot, since early this year.

The company said Wednesday it hopes to have its first paying passenger in the new flying vehicles by 2023, though it still faces several obstacles.

Uber released a glossily produced promotional video demonstrating what using its aerial taxi service would look like from the perspective of a working mother taking a flight home from work.

LA Mayor Eric Carcetti said in a statement: "LA is the ideal testing ground for this new technology, and I look forward to seeing it grow in the coming years".

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