Is ride-sharing in the air just pie in the sky? Uber doesn’t think so.
The car-hailing company announced a partnership with NASA on Wednesday at Web Summit in Lisbon to develop a plan for managing urban airspace. The two have signed a Space Act Agreement, which will see Uber work together with federal agency and its other partners to make flying vehicles at a low altitude safe and viable.
The company also announced that it will launch its flying car service UberAIR in Los Angeles in 2020 — just a year later than Blade Runner predicted.
If you thought self-driving cars were futuristic, they’re nothing compared to flying cars. Uber is not the only company toying with such technology — a number of other companies, such as startup AeroMobil are also developing airborne vehicles. They are mainly being designed for cities, with the idea they will reduce congestion in urban centers.
On stage in Lisbon, Uber’s Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden showed off the first teaser video for the one of Uber’s flying car concept designs. The aerial vehicles will serve as an alternative to helicopters, which are too noisy, too dangerous, too expensive and not environmentally friendly enough to fly in urban environments.
Uber’s vehicles will be emissions free, said Holden, and can still fly even if any single part fails. At launch UberAIR will be the same price as Uber X, and eventually the company hopes to make it cheaper than driving your own car. “Uber wouldn’t even build something like this if it wasn’t for everyone,” said Holden.
LA will be the second US city to get UberAIR after Dallas, which was announced as the first location for UberAIR at the company’s Elevate Summit in April. Dubai is currently slated to be the first location for launch outside of the US.
The plan for launching in LA is to rely on 20 strategically placed flight bases around the city, starting with LAX, Downtown, Sherman Oaks and Santa Monica. The city will also play host to Uber’s next Elevate conference, where the partners involved in the UberAIR project will meet in spring 2018.