At the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Uber announced that it has signed a deal with NASA in order to develop traffic systems for its flying vehicle project that it hopes to finally get off the ground in 2020.
The company envisions a network of small, electric aircraft in numerous cities worldwide to enable four-person flights.
In interviews with the USA media overnight, including Bloomberg, Jeff Holden, Uber's chief product officer, confirmed the ride-hailing company had signed an agreement to work with NASA on "unmanned traffic management" systems. "We will be helping them accelerate these vehicle programs", Holden told Reuters. "Uber wouldn't even build something like this if it wasn't for everyone", said Holden.
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NASA said in a statement it had signed a generic agreement in January with Uber that enables the company to join a variety of industry partners working with NASA to develop a range of driverless air traffic management systems. "High costs, safety concerns and regulatory burdens are likely to limit the use of this overhyped technology". Rather than offering the service as a luxury product (trips to Coachella Valley from Los Angeles cost passengers $4,170 each way), Uber envisions UberAir as a commuter option, with fares comparable to taking an UberX vehicle ride.
Uber is working with NASA to develop software for managing low-altitude air taxis, potentially opening the door for a future where people can travel short distances in the air rather than on the ground. Making taxis fly The contract with NASA is to solve the problem of operating hundreds or thousands of aircraft over urban areas with the goal of enabling uberAIR services to operate alongside existing air traffic control systems and in and around busy airports.
Uber also announced that it signed an agreement with Sandstone Properties in LA to develop its Skyport take-off and landing terminals atop buildings, according to USA Today. It's hoped that the service will be in "heavy use" by the time LA hosts the Olympics in 2028. It plans to start offering services from locations near a downtown sports arena, the global airport, Santa Monica and Sherman Oaks in suburban San Fernando Valley, California the company said.