Uber signs contract with Nasa to develop flying taxi software
Ambitious plans for electric drone-like flying cabs take step forward as Uber announces plans to test flights in LA in 2020
Uber has taken a step forward in its plan to make autonomous “flying taxis” a reality, signing a contract with Nasa to develop the software to manage them.
The company’s chief product officer, Jeff Holden, announced the new service contract at Web Summit in Lisbon, alongside its intention to begin testing four-passenger, 200mph UberAir flying taxi services across Los Angeles in 2020, its second test market in the US after Dallas.
Uber said its flying taxi service would be purely electric and that a journey that would take 80 minutes by car in rush-hour traffic could be reduced to as little as four minutes. Uber intends to have some form of its air service operational for the 2028 LA Olympics, but experts remain sceptical as to whether autonomous flying taxis will ever become a reality.
Holden said: “Doing this safely and efficiently is going to require a foundational change in airspace management technologies. Combining Uber’s software engineering expertise with Nasa’s decades of airspace experience to tackle this is a crucial step forward.”
The Space Act agreement, which has been used by Nasa to contract out the development of rockets since the late 1950s, will see Uber participate in a project to develop unmanned traffic management systems as well as the low-altitude unmanned aerial systems (drones) that will be governed by it.