Fri, Nov 10, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Uber, NASA join in flying taxi bid

AFP, LOS ANGELES

Uber Technologies Inc on Wednesday unveiled a partnership with NASA that would see it develop flying taxis priced competitively with standard Uber journeys.

It also announced Los Angeles would join two other previously revealed “UberAIR” pilot schemes in Dallas Fort-Worth, Texas, and Dubai.

California and Texas are the US states with the largest number of cars.

“Uber’s participation in NASA’s UTM [unmanned traffic management] Project will help the company’s goal of starting demonstration flights of uberAIR in select US cities by 2020,” the ride-sharing company said in a statement.

Uber wants to “explore other collaboration opportunities with NASA” with a view to open “a new market of urban air mobility,” it added.

The first demonstration flights are expected in 2020, moving into commercial operations by 2023 — in plenty of time for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

The flights are to have a pilot during initial flights, but could be automated in the future, Uber spokesman Matthew Wing said.

An UberAir journey between Los Angeles International Airport and the Staples Center arena, for example, would take 27 minutes — one-third of the time for same journey taken by car.

A promotional video illustrated the app would work in a similar way to the current set-up for ordering a car ride.

However, the planned electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles “differ from helicopters in that they are orders of magnitude quieter, safer, more affordable and more environmentally friendly,” the company said, adding that journeys would be priced competitively with a standard Uber trip.

The vehicles are to take off, land and recharge upon a network of “vertiports” installed on top of parking garages, on existing helipads or on unused land around road interchanges.

Deloitte’s Pascal Pincemin said at the Paris Air Show flying taxis would not be commonplace until 2050, as their reliability would need to be established first.

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