Uber and NASA team up to study 'flying taxis'


The ride-sharing company unveiled its latest research and plans at the second annual Uber Elevate Summit this week. As reported by Fast Company, one of these was an all-electric multi-rotor aircraft that uses stacked rotors to lift off vertically, but can travel at more than 300 km/h (186 mph) thanks to an airplane-like body. The propellors rotate in the same direction on two separate rotor systems created to ensure safe transition between vertical and forward flight.

Uber Technologies reopened a contest on Wednesday to select the first worldwide city to launch its proposed flying taxi project, following apparent delays in getting the service off the ground in Dubai, a previously proposed market.

Flying taxis lading and taking off from a tower block.

Founder Abe Karem, a pioneer in drone technology, said this particular project is challenging, because "almost everything is wrong in helicopters for what you have to do".

Uber aims to speed development of a new industry of electric, on-demand, urban air taxis, which customers might order up via smartphone much the way it has popularised ground-based taxi alternatives since it first launched in 2011.

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Uber is also partnering with Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences. These would be piloted to begin with, and then fly on their own once autonomous technologies mature.

The body of this air taxi is reminiscent of the fuselage of a plane, rather than a helicopter. Bell described the interior cabin it designed as a "comfortable, relaxing space" that acclimates the passenger to the qualities of vertical flight.

The company hopes to have pricing similar to an Uber Black on a per-mile basis, with cost eventually falling as low as UberX over the same distance.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who has been at the helm for less than one year, admitted he wasn't initially 100 percent on board for Elevate, he said at the Uber Elevate Summit.

The US Transportation Department said it chose 10 state, local and tribal governments and a handful of companies, including Alphabet Inc, FedEx Corp, Intel Corp, Qualcomm Inc and Uber, to work together on commercial drone testing. Embraer took this opportunity to showcase its first VTOL model, the Embraer X along with a new concept model by Pipistrel. Uber had previously announced plans to start flight demonstrations in 2020 in Dallas, Los Angeles, and Dubai.