Uber and Nasa Elevate with Flying Cars- Time for Takeoff

Urban air mobility means a safe and efficient system for vehicles, piloted or not, to move passengers and cargo within a city. Credits: NASA
Urban air mobility means a safe and efficient system for vehicles, piloted or not, to move passengers and cargo within a city. Credits: NASA

Uber is in the news again. As reported by The Scope Weekly, the ridesourcing company got a jolt of financing when Softbank agreed to invest billions of dollars in Uber, and today the company, in partnership with Nasa announced that it is launching UberAir flying cars in 2020. The low-altitude airborne vehicles are planned to be used to get around cities with bottleneck and traffic flow problems, such as seen in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. Nasa is not developing software or flying cars for Uber or any other company but will provide technical leadership to the project.

The concept video demonstrates how the service will operate and fly low-altitude flying vehicles around cities. The initial cities to be among the first to see UberAir come to life are Los Angeles, Dallas, and Dubai.

In Los Angeles, Uber will install 20 of its Skyports around the city, including places like Los Angeles International Airport, Santa Monica, and Sherman Oaks with its Los Angeles operations expected to open in 2020.

It’s Urban Air Mobility or UAM

In 2011, the agency’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) launched a project named Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the National Airspace System, which focused on relatively large low-altitude flying vehicles. Then, in 2015, NASA initiated its UAS Traffic Management (UTM) project, to deal with smaller, lower-flying drones.

J.D. Harrington, Public Affairs Officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration told The Scope Weekly in an email interview that “NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate signed a generic Space Act Agreement (SAA) 10 months ago (January 2017) to allow Uber to join the multitude of industry partners that are working with the agency on its Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Traffic Management (UTM) Technical Capability Level demonstrations, specifically during phase 4 of this work scheduled to begin in March 2019.”

NASA has the knowledge and the expertise to help enable the industry to open the Urban Air Mobility and other new small aircraft markets safety and efficiently, however, NASA is not developing flying cars or software for Uber or any other company.

NASA won’t have a direct hand in providing design input for these vehicles but will provide technical leadership in areas that require the UAM community to work together, such as the safety, operational integration, and community noise challenges. “For example, we and our industry partners can conduct joint flight tests to generate data that drive analyses to support the creation of industry standards, FAA rules and procedures, and even city ordinances,” said  Parimal Kopardekar, senior technologist for air transportation systems at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

“We believe our job is to create opportunities for the UAM community to work together toward the common goal of safe, efficient and quiet operations,” Rich Wahls, NASA’s strategic technical advisor in the Advanced Air Vehicles Program for ARMD, said in a statement.

ARMD conducts research based on a deliberate and well-coordinated strategic implementation plan and has looked at various possible partners but for now, its Uber.

“NASA has the knowledge and the expertise to help make urban air mobility happen,” said Jaiwon Shin, NASA’s associate administrator for aeronautics. “We plan to conduct the research and development and test the concepts and technologies that establish feasibility and help set the requirements. Those requirements then serve to make using autonomous vehicles, electric propulsion, and high-density airspace operations in the urban environment safe, efficient and economically viable.”

What do you think of flying taxis? Would you be willing to ride in them the same way you hail a cab? Do you think they will be safe or may help in alleviating crippling traffic around and in large cities? Are you ready for Blade Runner 2045?

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