Uber Technologies Inc. has partnered up with the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration or NASA to develop technology for flying taxis that will be tested in 2020 in cities such as Dubai, Dallas, and the newest addition, Los Angeles. Uber calls the initiative Uber Elevate.
Uber’s goal for this project was to cut down on commuting in some of the busiest areas during peak rush hour times. It would be a faster alternative for customers to hail a flying taxi and be at their destination in 15-minutes rather than driving nearly two hours or more for the same distance due to traffic.
Chief Product Officer, Jeff Holden, said that Uber would be testing a four passenger taxi service that flies at around 200 mph. It will begin in Los Angeles by 2020, and then to the Dallas area afterwards.
The aircrafts will use a vertical takeoff and landing or VTOL. This will enable the aircrafts to rapidly launch but as well as quietly making it a reliable and efficient means of transportation in urban regions.
Although it will be expensive at first, Uber says it the air taxi service becomes successful, it’ll eventually mass produce carriers using VTOL network technology and become cheaper for passengers.
While the idea of flying around in air taxi is appealing to customers, there’s one giant problem, regulatory and inspection approvals. This poses a problem only because Uber has had countless situations where it has ran into legal troubles.
The ride hailing service company has faced problems such as evading government officials with Greyball software, poor background checks, renting out faulty vehicles, spying on its competitors, and its current lawsuit situation with Alphabet’s self driving unit, Waymo.
But Uber said it is working and talking to the Federal Aviation Administration as well as the European Aviation Agency.
According to Reuters, Uber is working with Embraer, Mooney, Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron, and Pipistrel Aircraft to develop the VTOL technology. Uber is also working with Aurora Flight Sciences, which was acquired by Boeing, for a stable and consistent manufacturer.
Uber’s goal for this project is not to launch its own flying taxi service, but develop technology and possibly integrate into its business in the future. But as for now, adding a flying taxi service is not part of the current agenda.