Uber and NASA are partnering for the future of public transportation

The prospect of air taxis has long been a pipe dream for this world. But it might not stay that way anymore now that Uber and NASA have finalized a partnership that will sensually turn “on-demand aviation” from fantasy to reality. Together, the two companies hope to start doing test runs of flying taxis by 2020 - yes, that’s a little over two years away - in certain locations around the world, including Los Angeles, Dallas, and Dubai.

The announcement was made by no less than Uber’s own head of product, Jeff Holden, who laid out new details about the company’s ambitious Project Elevate program. Included in his speech at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal is the announcement that the ride-hailing service has signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA, which aims to create a new air-traffic control system that will specifically manage the low-flying, possibly autonomous aircrafts that Uber plans to develop to make up its fleet of air taxis. The goal, according to Holden, is to bring UberAir into the forefront of public transportation by “performing far more flights on a daily basis than it has ever been done before.” Holden added that the road to getting there will be made easier by “combining Uber’s software engineering expertise with NASA’s decades of airspace experience.”

Whereas the full details of the Uber-NASA partnership haven’t been made clear, this partnership is far from a cosmetic one. There’s already a groundswell of support growing for the propagation of this technology, most notably from Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, who’s leading the charge in turning Los Angeles into a true city of the future in time for the 2028 Summer Olympics. Rest assured, as the project evolves and becomes more feasible, expect more and more cities, and possibly countries, to jump aboard the prospect of seeing a full-fledged, fully operational, on-demand aviation offering in their locales.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

The future is coming to the skies

For those who are still skeptical of Uber’s Elevate program, I understand where the cynicism is coming from. It’s hard to imagine a world where flying taxis actually exist because we’ve constantly been teased and promised it for years, and it’s become kind of an old hat to even put any stock in it.

But, there is something different now given how technology has advanced to the point that it’s actually becoming possible to do it. I’m not going to pretend to know the intricacies of the technology or the specifics on how far Uber has progressed in the development of the tech, but it is emboldening for all of us to start dreaming now when you consider that Uber isn’t the only company that’s putting in the work to put these flying taxis to the sky. Airbus is in on it too with CityAirbus; its version of a VTOL taxi that will take to the skies for test runs in 2018. Then there’s Volocopter, which broke ground on aerial testing over in Dubai back in September. Clearly, this technology is within reach enough that some of the biggest transportation and aviation firms are in a veritable arms race to see which company can be the first to bring the technology to life.

Uber’s inclusion of Los Angeles as a test city is a big deal

Previously, Uber only announced that it’s Project Elevate program had the green light to do test runs in Dubai and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. But now, Los Angeles is in the fold and this is important for a number of reasons. The first and most obvious reason is the city’s current traffic situation, which is horrible to put it lightly. It’s the most traffic congested city in the world as the city clocked in a staggering average of 104 hours of traffic jams in 2016 alone. What’s a good way, then, to ease the prevalence of gridlocks in such a densely-populated city? Offer air taxis to the public.

Then there’s Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti. He may not have universal popularity in the City of Angels, but he remains committed to turning Los Angeles into a city of the future. He’s been proactive in welcoming and embracing technology and innovation to the city, all with the goal of preparing it for the future, which now includes the hosting of the 2028 Summer Olympics.

If the tech succeeds, expect more cities to follow suit

On-Demand Aviation Could Be Closer To Reality Than We Think
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This is what’s at stake for companies like Uber and Airbus who are pioneering air taxi technology. If this revolutionary way of public transportation succeeds and becomes reality, it could literally decongest traffic gridlocks in cities all over the world, thus giving the population of these places more effective use of their time. I don’t think that it’s going to completely eradicate traffic, but it’s far and away one of the most ambitious plans out there. And, for what it’s worth, it’s also, ironically, one of those solutions that could become a reality sooner than we think.

Source: The Verge

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