Uber, NASA partner on flying cars

May 09, 2018 // By Rich Pell
U.S. space agency NASA (Washington, DC) and ride-sharing giant Uber Technologies (San Francisco, CA) have signed an agreement to further explore concepts and technologies related to urban air mobility (UAM).

The agreement, say the organizations, is to ensure a safe and efficient system for future air transportation in populated areas, as Uber looks ahead to deploying aerial taxis in the future. Under the agreement, Uber will share its plans for implementing an urban aviation rideshare network.

For its part, NASA will use the latest in airspace management computer modeling and simulation to assess the impacts of small aircraft – including everything from delivery drones to passenger aircraft with vertical take-off and landing capability – in crowded environments. The partnership represents the agency's first such agreement focused on modeling and simulation for UAM operations.

"NASA is excited to be partnering with Uber and others in the community to identify the key challenges facing the UAM market, and explore necessary research, development, and testing requirements to address those challenges," says Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. "Urban air mobility could revolutionize the way people and cargo move in our cities and fundamentally change our lifestyle much like smart phones have."

NASA will use data supplied by Uber at its research facility at the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport to simulate a small passenger-carrying aircraft as it flies through DFW airspace during peak scheduled air traffic. Analysis of the simulations will identify safety issues as the new aircraft take to the air in an already crowded air traffic control system.

"The new space act agreement broadening Uber's partnership with NASA is exciting," says Jeff Holden, Uber’s chief product officer, "because it allows us to combine Uber's massive-scale engineering expertise with NASA's decades of subject matter experience across multiple domains that are key to enabling urban air mobility, starting with airspace systems."

The companies reportedly hope commercial trips on such passenger-carrying aircraft will be available in 2023. Rides will be booked within the Uber app, similar to how users request a ride in a car or SUV.

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