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Uber to Develop Self-flying Taxis after NASA deal

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A rather retro-looking Uber self-flying taxi approaching a sky port (via Uber)

Uber has signed a contract with US space agency Nasa to design software for self-driving flying taxi.

The cab-hailing service’s chief product officer Jeff Holden revealed the news  at the Lisbon’s Web Summit; he also announced that the company will start testing so-called “UberAir” flying cabs around Los Angeles in 2020. (It is understood that the company plans to launch some operational flying cars in the city by the 2028 Olympics.)

The vehicles will allegedly be electric and would slash travelling time at rush hour from 80 to four minutes. Of course there are plenty of technology experts who question that flying cars will ever become viable.

“Doing this safely and efficiently is going to require a foundational change in airspace management technologies. Combining Uber’s software engineering expertise with Nasa’s decades of airspace experience to tackle this is a crucial step forward,” Holden said.

LA mayor Eric Garcetti, who supports Uber’s testing in his city, also commented on the news: “Los Angeles has always been a place where innovators come to build new ideas that can change how we live our lives. LA is the perfect testing ground for this new technology and I look forward to seeing it grow in the coming years,” he said.

Will Uber will take care of the software component , it  will not manufacture the flying vehicles, whose construction is being subcontracted to five manufacturers working on vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft. The company also started a partnership with real estate firm Sandstone Properties, in order to build the “skyports” for the flying taxis’ takeoff and landing.

As The Guardian reports, Uber does not lack the expertise to embark on this new project, having recently hired  former Nasa researchers Mark Moore and Tom Prevot to head their aerospace units.

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