Uber is pushing forward with its flying car plans and will host a Los Angeles event with demonstrations in May

A mock-up from Uber of a VTOL aircraft.

A mock-up from Uber of a VTOL aircraft.

  • Uber is hosting an aviation conference, Elevate Summit, in May 2018.
  • The ride-hailing company wants to run a “flying car” trial in three cities by 2020.
  • Its long-term vision is urban aircraft you book with the tap of an app.

Uber is still committed to its dream of flying cars.

In May, the ride-hailing company will host a special conference dedicated to the futuristic vehicles, a sign that Uber’s intentions to play a leading role in the nascent industry have not been dampened by the new management and investors who now control the company.

Uber’s second annual “Elevate Summit” will take place in Los Angeles – one of the cities where it hopes to launch a pilot project in the next few years.

The invite-only event will feature unspecified “announcements and demonstrations,” and Uber execs will discuss “what’s coming next for Uber Elevate,” a Uber spokesperson told Business Insider by email. A special website that Uber unveiled on Monday for the upcoming event listed numerous recent Uber hires, many poached from NASA and academia, as scheduled speakers.

Flying cars, a longtime staple of science-fiction, are getting closer to reality, with a number of well-funded companies racing to develop the technology, including Boeing, Airbus and Kitty Hawk, a startup backed by Google founder Larry Page.

Welcome to the Skyport

Uber is best-known for its on-demand ride-hailing app, but in recent years has talked up the promise of Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft – flying vehicles capable of launching without a runway, and sometimes referred to as “flying cars” – for transportation in urban areas.

In November 2017, the company’s head of product Jeff Holden shared a number of details about the “Uber Elevate” project, The Verge reported at the time. It hopes to launch tests in Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth and Dubai by 2020, and envisions customers booking seats on an aircraft via the app, much like a regular taxi, then catching it from a rooftop “skyport.”

Uber, one of the world’s dominant ride-hailing services, has for years invested in futuristic technology including self-driving cars and flying cars under the leadership of Travis Kalanick, the former CEO and cofounder. Kalanick was replaced as CEO by Dara Khosrowshahi in August, following a rocky year at Uber.

Despite the change in management, Uber appears to be moving forward with its plans for flying cars.

Subjects due to be discussed at the Elevate event, which will take place at LA’s Skirball Center on May 8 and 9, include “Moving Cities,” “Airspace & Enabling Operations,” and “Vehicles, Batteries and Key Technologies.”

For now, the line-up of speakers is exclusively Uber employees, including Holden and CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. It also highlights a number of Uber’s recent hires from elsewhere in the industry, including Celina Mikolojczak, director of engineering, energy storage solutions (joined in January 2018, formerly at Tesla); Rob McDonald, head of aircraft engineering (joined in January 2018, formerly at California Polytechnic State University); and Thomas Prevot, director of airspace systems (joined in July 2017, formerly at NASA).