Uber 'flying taxis' to arrive in Los Angeles in 2020

In-app taxi company partners with Nasa to develop 200mph autonomous drones for the four million LA inhabitants

Uber has announced plans to make autonomous and piloted ‘flying taxis’ in partnership with Nasa, confirming their ambition at this year’s Web Summit in Lisbon.

According to the company’s chief product officer Jeff Holden, the first uberAIR flying taxi services will begin  across the city of Los Angeles in 2020, with full implementation prior to the 2028 Olympic Games, which will be held in LA. Holden also says the airborne vehicles will be fully electric.

• Driverless cars: everything you need to know about autonomous vehicles

With a metropolitan population just under four million in an area of 503 square miles, Los Angeles is one of the United States’ most crowded cities. According to Uber, certain journeys within the city that today take up to 80 minutes in rush-hour traffic could be completed in as little as four minutes in an uberAIR taxi.

Holden said: “Doing this safely and efficiently 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.” 

Nasa has been drafted in to develop the software for Uber’s flying taxis, while Sandstone Properties has been tasked with building ‘skyports’ for the autonomous vehicles.

Uber chief apologises for 'mistakes' amid TfL ban

UberAir will utilise vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicles for its planned entry into service in 2020, with a potential top speed of 200mph. Similar technology is used on domestic drones as well as the Amazon Prime Air delivery drones. 

Uber will be seeking approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration to operate the flying taxis, but due to strict requirements, this will be easier said than done. With an initial vehicle cost of $1.2 million (£915,000), expensive production costs could be another bugbear preventing uberAIR's flying taxis from taking off.

Would you get an Uber if the journey was completed in a flying taxi? Give us your thoughts in the comments...

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