Uber announces partnership with NASA on flying vehicle service

Gwen Vasquez
November 9, 2017

The ride-hailing firm first unveiled its ambitious plans for a flying-car project past year, as part of Uber's effort to transform the transportation industry. "I think 2020 is realistic for a vehicle that is not replacing an airplane but replacing a auto", Richard Pat Anderson, director of the Flight Research Center at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, told Wired at the time.

All of which makes it kind of exciting that today Uber, which has already been talking up the flying taxi concept, announced it will be working with NASA to create the needed air traffic management system.

Alex Comisar, Garcetti's press secretary, said discussions with the company operating the technology in the city are in the preliminary stages. "Uber wouldn't even build something like this if it wasn't for everyone", said Holden.

"UberAir will be performing far more flights on a daily basis than it has ever been done before".

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. It plans to build no aircraft itself.

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NASA also is teaming up with other companies to develop traffic management for these low-altitude vehicles, CNBC reported.

"These are exactly the kind of partners we need to make uberAIR a reality", Holden said of NASA.

Despite the momentum behind the project, Jim Harris, a partner at Bain & Co. who leads the firm's aerospace and defense practice, said the regulatory timeline tends to be longer than companies expect.

After using her smartphone to pass through a turnstile, the user is briefly weighed before being let to an aircraft that resembles a cross between a plane and a helicopter with fixed wings and tilt-prop rotors. "But for some autonomous experiments, it's going to take awhile for consumers to be comfortable being in an air taxi without a pilot". But for a larger-scale service that's economically viable? The aerial vehicles will serve as an alternative to helicopters, which Uber says are too noisy, too risky, too expensive and not environmentally friendly enough to fly in urban environments.

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