Uber turns to NASA engineer to build its vision of a flying car

8 Feb 2017

Flying car on display at expo. Image: Tinxi/Shutterstock

Uber’s plan to build a flying car fleet has been bolstered with the hiring of NASA aeronautics engineer Mark Moore, who will now lead its efforts.

Since The Jetsons cartoon in the 1960s, the flying car has been the dream of many sci-fi enthusiasts, who felt at the time that its existence would be an inevitability before the end of the 20th century.

It is only in the last few years, with the advance of more powerful electric vehicles, that the technology has gone from a pipe dream to a reality.

Elevating Uber

Tech and transport giant Uber is attempting to take its vehicles into the sky with the hiring of NASA aircraft engineer Mark Moore.

According to Bloomberg, Moore published a white paper detailing the feasibility of an electric car back in 2010, revealing a real concept that would create a vertical take-off and landing electric aircraft.

The design caught the attention of Google’s Larry Page, who saw potential in the technology and began investing in small start-ups looking to build such a vehicle.

Following on from a career that lasted three decades at NASA, Moore will join Uber as director of engineering for aviation to develop the flying car project known as Uber Elevate.

Still exploring possibilities

Based on what Uber has planned, this appointment will help to flesh out what a flying car future would look like for the company.

Uber’s head of product for advanced programmes, Nikhil Goel, said the white paper that it published last October laid the groundwork for organising both the car and tech industry to develop a flying car platform.

“Uber continues to see its role as an accelerant-catalyst to the entire ecosystem, and we are excited to have Mark joining us to work with manufacturers and stakeholders as we continue to explore the use case described in our white paper,” Goel said.

First flying car within a year

Despite his sci-fi job title, Moore said that it will not be an easy process to literally get the car off the ground, especially in the area of regulation and air-traffic restrictions.

Yet within Uber’s user base of as many as 55m people, he sees the best potential for making flying cars a reality as, in his opinion, the US space agency is leaving much of the innovation to the private sector.

Remaining optimistic, Moore said that he envisions that within as little as a year, there will be flying cars piloted by humans.

One potential challenger to Uber will be Airbus, which revealed its Project Vahana last month, which will attempt to create an almost identical flying taxi service.

Flying car on display at expo. Image: Tinxi/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic