Uber partners with NASA and proposes flying taxis by 2020
To date, 2017 hasn’t been a good year for Uber. They were expelled from several European countries, and kicked out of London.
Beset by problems on the ground from all sides, perhaps it's logical that Uber are now looking to the skies instead. This week, the company formalised an agreement with NASA to co-develop a flying taxi service, UberAir.
Uber says that the service could reduce journeys that may have taken eighty minutes by car to four minutes by air. It aims to trial the flying cabs in LA in 2020 and for some form of air service to serve the 2028 LA Olympics.
The partnership was announced at the Lisbon Web Summit. Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product manager, stated:
‘This 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.”
Uber has also thought about the infrastructural demands. They have signed a deal with LA's Sanstone Properties to build skyports across the area. These will serve as take-off and drop-off points.
Eric Garcetti, mayor of LA, sounded his approval for the scheme. ‘Los Angeles has always been a place where innovators come to build new ideas that can change how we live our lives. LA is the perfect testing ground for this new technology and I look forward to seeing it grow in the coming years.’
However, Uber’s aerial aspirations have also faced understandable scepticism.
The service will ‘likely be more disruptive than transformational', argued Gartner's Kimberly Harris-Ferrante and Michael Ramsey. 'High costs, safety concerns and regulatory burdens are likely to limit the use of this overhyped technology’.
Additionally, Uber will need to overcome sizable obstacles. One is the required approval of the US Federal Aviation Administration. The cabs will fly outside usual aircraft corridors. Due to exhaustive health and safety regulations, this will undoubtedly cause some concern.
We’ll keep covering this as it develops, so do check back with the Taxi Centre blog for more!