Taking the concept of flying taxis a step closer to reality, Uber is partnering with NASA as part of a joint industry and government push to develop software to manage flying taxi routes. Reuters reports that the software, which the company aims to use, could work like ride-hailing services it runs and has popularized on the ground.
This is reportedly the first formal services contract by NASA that covers low-altitude airspace rather than outer space.
Reuters quotes Uberâ€™s Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden as saying that Uber will start testing the proposed four-passenger, 200-miles-per-hour (322-km-per-hour) flying taxi services across Los Angeles in 2020. This will be its second planned test market after Dallas/Fort Worth.
After having faced regulatory hurdles across the globe, Holden says that Uber is working to get an approval from aviation regulators well ahead of introducing flying taxi services.
â€śThere is a reality that Uber has grown up a lot as a company. We are now a major company on the world stage and you canâ€™t do things the same way where you are a large-scale, global company that you can do when you are a small, scrappy startup,â€ť Holden told Reuters in an interview.
In a statement, NASA said that it signed an agreement with Uber in January. The agreement lets Uber join various industry partners that are working with NASA to develop a range of driverless air traffic management systems. Uber will be involved the fourth phase that will begin in March 2019.
Reuters reports that Uber to looking to develop a new industry of electric, on-demand, urban air taxis, which can be run just like its ground taxis are. Uber has plans on introducing intra-city flying taxis by 2023 that users can book via their smartphone.
Uberâ€™s plan is to have a fleet of electric jet-powered vehicles, which are part helicopter, part drone and part fixed-wing aircraft, running multiple small rotors capable of both vertical takeoff and landing and rapid horizontal flight.
It is currently working with aviation regulators in the US and with NASA to solve issues such as managing operations of hundreds of driverless aircrafts over urban areas, while allowing them to co-exist with existing air traffic control systems, also in and around busy airports.