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Uber Partners with NASA to Bring Flying Taxis to Los Angeles By 2020

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There’s a new initiative to create off-the-ground transportation in Los Angeles. Uber has partnered with NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) on a project called Uber Elevate.

Uber Elevate plans to bring test versions of “flying taxis” to the cities of Los Angeles, Dubai, and Dallas-Fort Worth by 2020. However, more cities may be on the back burner. Uber’s chief product officer, Jeff Holden, says that they’re trying to implement the technology into as many interested cities as possible.

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These aircraft-vehicle hybrids are expected to be fully electric and operate with vertical takeoff and landing practices. By using electric power, Uber expects this commuter method to be more environmentally sound and cost efficient. The vehicles will be low-flying, avoiding the upper airspace of actual aviation aircrafts. And that’s why they need NASA’s help: NASA was brought on board to help with air traffic management, specifically unmanned traffic management.

Unmanned traffic management is the idea that we have such vast amounts of air traffic space, much of which is low and unmonitored, and it needs to be regulated. With personal drones flying around in low, unmonitored airspace, having a system like Uber Elevate could be dangerous without some regulation. “Combining Uber’s software engineering expertise with NASA’s decades of airspace experience to tackle this is a crucial step forward for Uber Elevate,” said Jeff Holden.

“UberAir will be performing far more flights on a daily basis than it has ever done before,” explained Holden. “Doing this safely and efficiently is going to require a foundational change in airspace management technologies.”

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Los Angeles is a strong focus for Uber’s initial implementation, mainly due to its heavy traffic. Whether you’re on the roads, bike ways, or sidewalks, commuting in Los Angeles is famously a nightmare (avoid the 405). The city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, even describes Los Angeles as the “perfect testing ground for this new technology.”

Jeff Holden also expressed Uber’s interest in assisting with the 2028 Olympics, scheduled to be hosted in Los Angeles. The service is expected to be fully implemented by that date, says Holden, with “tens of thousands of flights” daily.

While plans for the airborne vehicle are taking flight, the designs are not set in stone. The vehicles themselves, the takeoff and landing equipment, and charging stations are still in the works.

News Sources: Los Angeles Times, CNBC