Uber plans to test its first flying taxis by 2020 using NASA software

9 Nov 2017

Uber signs. Image: Ink Drop/Shutterstock

Uber is turning to a safe pair of hands to develop its flying car software, with plans to test flying taxis by 2020.

The latest update on Uber’s flying taxis project was announced by chief product officer Jeff Holden at the Web Summit in Lisbon.

According to The Guardian, Uber has ambitious plans to have its first prototype taxis flying at speeds of more than 300kph over the skies of Los Angeles and Dallas by 2020.

To do this, it has teamed up with NASA to help develop the software necessary for a fleet of fully electric, autonomous flying vehicles.

“Doing this safely and efficiently is going to require a foundational change in airspace management technologies,” Holden said.

“Combining Uber’s software engineering expertise with NASA’s decades of airspace experience to tackle this is a crucial step forward.”

Uber’s decision to partner with the US space agency might not come as a surprise, given that the ride-sharing company hired two former NASA engineers to work on the project.

This includes Mark Moore, who is running the vehicle design team, while Tom Prevot is leading a team to develop air traffic management systems.

Competition hots up

The plan is that once operational, the taxis could reduce a journey during rush hour from 80 minutes to four minutes.

Rather than building the drones themselves, Uber intends to hand over the manufacturing to five different partners, as well as partnering with a company called Sandstone Properties to develop a series of ‘skyports’ to house the flying taxis.

Cities across the world are racing to become the first to offer such a service, with Dubai revealing intentions last February to have its own two-seater flying taxi by the end of this year. In September, the city tested the Autonomous Air Taxi, which has a maximum speed of 100kph and a flight time of 30 minutes.

Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority now plans to spend the next five years legislating and developing policies around the admission of flying cars into the public transport system. By 2030, it aims to have one-quarter of its transport systems autonomously driven.

Uber signs. Image: Ink Drop/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic