Uber Recruits NASA for Flying Car Program

Uber has taken a small step towards making its vision for a flying taxi service a reality.

The ride-sharing company has signed a contract with NASA to develop an air traffic control system for low-flying helicopters. After all, Uber’s flying fleet of vertical takeoff and landing aircrafts—VTOLs for short—wouldn’t follow fixed routes.

Although the industry-government partnership was inked in January of this year, Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product officer, announced NASA’s involvement for the first time at Web Summit in Lisbon today.

Uber has faced its share of legal battles and regulatory hurdles, but Holden said the company plans on testing the aerial taxi service in Los Angeles in 2020, reported Reuters. LA is the third city Uber announced as part of its aerial taxi service, and the second planned test market following Dallas-Fort Worth.

Uber first unveiled plans for Elevate, the flying car program, in October 2016. The company detailed in a white paper how the flying taxi service could enable “rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities” and ultimately result in inter-city air travel, say for a morning commute.

“Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground,” the company wrote.

Uber boasted “far-reaching changes” through Elevate including shorter commutes, less traffic congestion and cleaner air. A two-hour car ride from San Francisco’s Marina to downtown San Jose would take 15 minutes with Uber’s flying service if the Elevate program succeeds.

“The vision portrayed… is ambitious, but we believe it is achievable in the coming decade if all the key actors in the VTOL ecosystem — regulators, vehicle designers, communities, cities, and network operators — collaborate effectively,” Uber said.

Uber also showed off what a ride in a VTOL would look like at the international technology conference. The four-door aircrafts are built to reach cruise speeds of 200 miles per hour.