Uber signed a deal with NASA Wednesday to help develop traffic systems for its flying vehicle project which it hopes to start testing in 2020. The announcement was made at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon.
The company said Wednesday it hopes to have its first paying passenger in the new flying vehicles by 2023, though it still faces several obstacles.
On stage in Lisbon, Uber's Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden showed off the first teaser video for one of Uber's flying auto concept designs.
To keep tabs on its sky-bound traffic, Uber said it will work with NASA on a range of Unmanned Traffic Management and Unmanned Aerial Systems projects that in theory will prevent catastrophic mid-air accidents from happening in the skies above dense urban zones.
"There is a reality that Uber has grown up a lot as a company", Holden said in an interview ahead of his speech.
Uber has faced regulatory and legal battles around the world since it launched taxi-hailing services earlier this decade, including in London where it is appealing against a decision to strip it of its license due to safety concerns.
The taxis will fly at about 200 miles per hour, according to Reuters.
The ride-hailing firm first unveiled its ambitious plans for a flying-car project past year, as part of Uber's effort to transform the transportation industry. So it's encouraging to hear that Uber is going to connect its obvious business strengths with NASA's effort to create a framework for managing and overseeing traffic of low altitude flyers.
Just like with self-driving vehicles, Uber says it plans to eventually develop aircraft that fly themselves - removing the cost of a pilot and subsequently lowering fares. Uber isn't the only company toying with such technology - a number of other companies, including startup AeroMobil, are also developing airborne vehicles. In addition, Uber is planning to test a flying taxi service of some sort in Los Angeles in a couple years, introducing an alternative to both traditional air and ground travel. It plans to start offering services from locations near a downtown sports arena, the worldwide airport, Santa Monica and Sherman Oaks in suburban San Fernando Valley, California the company said.