- Uber is building a network of flying cars – and wants to test them out in LA by 2020. The company has partnered with manufacturers to design and build a network of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. It has also partnered with NASA to trial new traffic control systems to manage the aircraft.
Uber wants to bring its futuristic vision of flying cars to the immensely congested city of Los Angeles by 2020.
Chief product officer Jeff Holden, speaking at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, said the company would test its network of electric aircraft in the city to try and alleviate its serious traffic problem. By the 2028 Olympic Games, which will be held in LA, Holden “predicted heavy use of UberAir”.
The company announced similar trials in Dallas and Dubai earlier this year.
Uber outlined its vision for its flying car division, Uber Elevate, in April this year. The firm essentially wants to recreate its on-demand car service, but for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The upshot is that Uber customers could one day order a shared flight just like they order an UberX cab – and for a similar price.
But there’s a lot of barriers in the way like regulation and the fact that Uber can’t build an entire network of aircraft by itself. Instead, it’s come up with design concepts with its manufacturing partners, which show something like a helicopter.
Here’s Uber’s idea of what a ride in UberAir might be like:
There’s one new partner to help make the LA trial happen: NASA. The company has signed a Space Act Agreement to create a traffic control system to manage the low-flying craft.
Uber will also partner with private equity property firm Sandstone Properties to create 20 landing pad locations – or “skyports” – for its network of VTOL vehicles. Holden predicted that a 1.5 hour car journey could take less than 30 minutes with UberAir.
The company chose LA for its sheer size – it is the second largest city in the US behind New York – and the fact it has the worst traffic in the world.
Holden joked that the film “Blade Runner”, which showed flying cars available in LA in 2019, was only out by one year.