09 Nov'17

Uber’s partnership with NASA to create flying taxis – amazing or ludicrous ?

Uber’s ‘Fast-Forwarding to a Future of On-Demand Urban Air Transportation’ report provides details on how they plan to develop flying taxis.


The introduction starts with ‘Imagine traveling from San Francisco’s Marina to work in downtown San Jose – a drive that would normally occupy the better part of two hours – in only 15 minutes.’


The urban air taxi project is called ‘Elevate’. Engadget first reported on this in April of this year when Uber revealed that they planned to showcase their vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) crafts in 2020. Uber announced that their VTOL programme will be prototyped in three cities: Dallas-Fort Worth, Dubai and (later confirmed) Lost Angeles. As Engadget described it, an ambitious and ‘aggressive goal’.


Engadget’s latest report contains Uber’s promotional video demonstrating how they see the Elevate programme working.


The Guardian reports that Uber have signed NASA’s Space Act Agreement and are working with NASA to advance their Elevate scheme. The announcement was made by Jeff Holden (Uber’s Head of Product) at Web Summit, ‘the largest tech conference in the world’.


Holden stated, ‘Combining Uber’s software engineering expertise with Nasa’s decades of airspace experience to tackle this is a crucial step forward.’


The Guardian’s article includes quotes from different experts with opposing views on Uber’s flying taxis.


The Mayor of LA released a statement of support, ‘Los Angeles has always been a place where innovators come to build new ideas that can change how we live our lives.’  Whereas, Gartner Analysts added caution to the wind with the reality of ‘high costs, safety concerns and regulatory burdens’.


Is this partnership to create flying taxis amazing or ludicrous? Is it just a PR stunt at the end of what has been a bruising few months for the reputation of Uber?