Uber recently unveiled a partnership with NASA that will see it develop flying taxis priced competitively with standard Uber journeys.
It also announced that Los Angeles will join two other previously revealed “UberAIR” pilot schemes in Dallas Fort-Worth, Texas, and Dubai.
“Uber’s participation in NASA’s UTM (Unmanned Traffic Management) Project will help the company’s goal of starting demonstration flights of UberAIR in select US cities by 2020,” the ride-sharing company said in a statement.
Uber wants to “explore other collaboration opportunities with NASA” with a view to open “a new market of urban air mobility,” it added.
UberAIR forms part of the ride-sharing apps’ Elevate initiative, which would see cars replaced with electric aircrafts that are capable of taking off and landing vertically as a quicker and more environmentally friendly way to travel.
The planes — Vertical Take-off and Landing aircrafts (VTOLs) — will carry up to four passengers and allow users to share rides.
According to Uber’s head of product Jeff Holden says the company believes Los Angeles could potentially see a drastic impact to its traffic due to the electric planes, with 80-minute journey on the ground taking less than 30 minutes in the air.
“In this case, technology will allow LA residents to literally fly over the city’s historically bad traffic, giving them time back to use in far more productive ways, whether more leisure time with friends and family or more time to work,” said Holden.
“At scale, we expect UberAIR will perform tens of thousands of flights each day across the city – at those levels, all the time savings will have a noticeable positive impact on the region’s economy,” he added.
The first demonstration flights are expected in 2020, moving into commercial operations by 2023 – in plenty of time for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
The flights will have a pilot during initial flights, but could be automated in the future, spokesman Matthew Wing confirmed to AFP.