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. In addition, Uber is planning to test a flying taxi service of some sort in Los Angeles in a couple years, introducing an alternative to both traditional air and ground travel.
The idea of flying cars isn’t new, of course, but has been very slow to catch on — much slower than past generations had imagined. Flying cars such as the kind seen in The Jetsons are unlikely to ever become a reality due to the massive issues they pose, but compact flying vehicles that transport groups of people relatively short distances are more reasonable. Various concepts over recent years have introduced potential vehicles that could offer this service.
It’s no secret that Uber has been eyeing this potential future, indicating that it may launch a low-altitude flying taxi service not dissimilar from its road-based transportation. This newly penned deal with NASA is a big step in that direction, though we’re still years away from vehicles like this actually transporting people.
Under this NASA deal, Uber will develop the software traffic management system that would be used to manage these flying vehicles. Uber revealed the new NASA Space Act Agreement at the Web Summit conference recently, marking its first deal with a federal agency.
Uber wants to begin testing a type of flying taxi called a vertical take-off and landing (VToL) vehicle, which does exactly what that description suggests. The vehicle to be tested will likely be small, able to accommodate only a few passengers. Unlike road vehicles, though, this VToL vehicle will be able to travel at a couple hundred miles an hour, greatly reducing transit times.