Uber plans a €20m centre in Paris dedicated to lofty flying taxi project

24 May 2018

Paris will be the site of some advanced research from Uber. Image: beboy/Shutterstock

Uber is set to open its first R&D hub outside of the US in Paris.

Uber has big plans to bring taxis to the skies and a new project in Paris will be a major part of it.

The ride-sharing firm is to open its Advanced Technologies Center in the French capital to focus completely on Uber Elevate, its flying taxi endeavour.

A five-year project

Uber began Elevate in 2016 in an effort to create cities with less traffic congestion. It will spend €20m over a five-year period to engineer the technology to enable the system, including AI and air traffic control systems.

Uber is also set to begin a five-year research project with prestigious French engineering school École Polytechnique.

“Building the future of our cities will require the best and brightest minds working together,” company CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement.

“With world-class engineers and a leading role in global aviation, France is the perfect place to advance our Uber Elevate programme and new technology initiatives. We’re excited to partner with École Polytechnique to shape the future of urban mobility, on the ground and in the air.”

concept for an Uber Elevate Taxi

Concept image of an Uber Elevate aircraft. Image: Uber

The Paris lab will open in autumn of this year and will include expert staff in areas such as computer vision, engineering and machine learning. Airspace management, real-time communication networks, energy storage and charging systems are among the research areas the lab will deal with, according to head of Elevate, Eric Allison.

Deal with NASA

Earlier in May, CNet reported that Uber was expanding its flying taxi project with the signing of a second Nasa Space Act Agreement. The company will be sharing information on its concept for Uber Elevate, while NASA will use airspace management modelling and simulation algorithms to get a sense of the impact that fleets of flying vehicles may have in urban settings.

Uber already has advanced technology facilities in Pittsburgh, Toronto and San Francisco, but the Paris location is its first foray into a research facility in Europe.

It hopes to see demonstration flights in Dallas, Los Angeles and a third international city by 2020. The third city must have a population of more than 2m with dispersed population hubs, a willingness to back ride-sharing services and an airport at least an hour away from the centre of the city.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects