Uber partners with NASA for UberAir
At almost every conference or industry event you attend nowadays, there will be talk about air taxis.
Companies are rushing to get in on the ground floor of the new air taxi race, developing prototype vehicles that they are hoping to conduct passenger flights with as soon as 2020.
The latest development has seen ride-hailing service Uber partner with NASA for its Uber Elevate air taxi service project. This was announced at Web Summit 2017 in Lisbon.
Uber is bringing NASA on board to develop a range of driverless air traffic management systems and manage air taxi routes.
The company also plans to launch the service in one of the most congested cities in the world, Los Angeles, by 2020 and will charge users the same as its Uber X service at launch. This is approximately $3 per mile. It hopes to then extend the service to Fort Worth and Dubai during the same year.
Uber is also developing its own vertical take-off and landing vehicles (vtol) to fly these routes. In April it announced a partnership with five different manufacturers to accelerate its vtol fleet.
Uber is not the only company to be pursuing air taxis, although it gets most of the media attention.
Last week, venture capital firm btov invested in electric multicopter startup Volocopter, and German startup Lilium flew its vtol air taxi prototype a few months ago.
The precedent has been set for air taxi service in the past. Back in the 60s, we had New York Airways and even now we have Voom in Sao Paolo and Heli Air Monaco, among others. While some of these services are hardly expensive, none are running at the rate Uber X is aspiring to.
With Uber’s history of regulatory issues for its ride-hailing service, it remains to be seen how it handles the regulatory nightmare of a private air taxi service.