Uber has named Los Angeles as the second test city for the drone taxi service they’re working on..
TechCrunch reports that Uber has formed an official agreement with NASA to help develop UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) technologies at low altitude. Uber plans to start test flights for a drone taxi service in Los Angeles by 2020, and have a demonstration service in place by the 2028 Olympic games. (Dallas was the first test city named for the project.)
The project runs under the name “Uber Elevate,” and the concept is a grand one. Uber Elevate’s company whitepaper lays out the idea, which they call “on-demand aviation”:
On-demand aviation, has the potential to radically improve urban mobility, giving people back time lost in their daily commutes. Uber is close to the commute pain that citizens in cities around the world feel. We view helping to solve this problem as core to our mission and our commitment to our rider base. Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground. A network of small, electric aircraft that take off and land vertically (called VTOL aircraft for Vertical Take-off and Landing, and pronounced vee-tol), will enable rapid, reliable transportation between suburbs and cities and, ultimately, within cities.
The concept video envisions a traffic free commute between places like Silicon Valley and San Francisco – and LA’s infamous traffic scene makes it a logical place for UberAir to find a welcoming audience.
While drone taxis are a long way off from reality – both technical and regulatory issues abound – Uber seems serious about pursuing the concept. They’ve hired NASA engineer Mark Moore to manage the project, and joining NASA’s UTM team will put them on the front lines of the development of new systems.
In any case, as TechCrunch points out, the development and promise of a traffic free future offers Uber’s marketing team a welcome change in headlines to counteract the company’s recent negative press.