Tech

Lift off? NASA helping Uber on flying taxis

Mobile taxi firm Uber is enlisting the help of NASA to develop flying cabs ahead of a planned launch in 2020.

The Uber Elevate project was unveiled earlier this year, boasting ambitious designs of electric vehicles that would be able to take-off and land in cities around the world.

Pitched as the ideal method to navigate busy cities while avoiding congested streets, as well as an effective way of cutting emissions by reducing traffic on roads, Uber wants Elevate to be in operation in Dallas, Los Angeles and Dubai in just three years' time, followed by a wider roll-out.

NASA's involvement in the project was revealed by Uber's chief product officer Jeff Holden during a speech at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, on Wednesday.

The space agency will lend its expertise to aid in the development of software to manage routes.

Mr Holden said at the conference: "You can imagine commutes of an hour, an hour-and-a-half, or two hours on the ground becoming just a handful of minutes in the air. That's pretty exciting.

"These vehicles will be initially piloted so we've separated the passengers and pilot for safety, but we've designed the cabin for comfort. This has four passenger seats and is optimised for an 'UberPOOL-like' experience, which means we need people to be able to get in and out very quickly and easily."

He also said that the vehicles would be capable of flying between 150 and 200 miles per hour, last six hours on a single charge and be affordable, pledging that it would eventually be cheaper than driving a car.

At launch, he said an Uber flight would cost about the same as an Uber XL trip on the ground, which are the company's bigger, more expensive cars.

Uber will not build the vehicles itself and is working with developers to install landing pads atop skyscrapers.

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