Uber has teamed up with NASA to bring flying taxis to customers in 2020, Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden revealed at the Web Summit in Lisbon on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg.
Uber hopes to launch a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) network in Los Angeles, Dallas and Dubai in the next couple of years, the company said. The network of flying taxis will be an on demand system, and has been dubbed “uberAir.”
However, the company faces challenges regarding regulations, including approval by the Federal Aviation Administration. Officials will have to figure out how get the VTOLs to fly around safely along with airplanes, helicopters and drones. It’s also worth noting that Uber isn’t in a pretty light right now as its image is tarnished by numerous scandals, including the ousting of its co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick.
The ride-sharing company is trying to get closer to its 2020 goal by signing an agreement with NASA to create software for safely managing the operations of the airborne cars. Uber also said it’s working with aircraft, infrastructure and real estate partners to manage fixed routes between city hubs, called “Skyports.”
Holden said it will start testing four-passenger 200-mile-per-hour flying taxis in L.A. in 2020 first, and will then test the service in Dallas-Fort Worth, according to Reuters.
Uber had said earlier this year it wanted to get flying taxis in the air by 2020. The company announced at the time it had partnered with city officials in Dallas and Dubai for the planned service.
The company outlined its flying taxi plans last year in a white paper for its airborne taxi project, called Uber Elevate. In the paper, Uber said using the flying taxis to get from San Francisco’s Marina to San Jose, Calif. will take only 15 minutes, rather than two hours.
“On-demand aviation has the potential to radically improve urban mobility, giving people back time lost in their daily commutes,” said Uber last year. “Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground. A network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically will enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities.”
Uber also released a video over the summer on how the flying taxis would work:
While Uber preps for its 2020 goal, other tech companies are also looking into flying taxis, including Google’s Kitty Hawk Corp. Uber wouldn’t be the first to try out flying taxis in Dubai either, since the city’s Roads and Transport Authority successfully tested autonomous taxi drones in the city in September. The test was the first-ever public flight of an autonomous urban air taxi. The flying taxis were built by the German company Volocopter. The taxis can carry two passengers and fly for 30 minutes at a speed of 31 miles per hour with a maximum airspeed of 60 miles per hour.