According to Uber’s head of product, Jeff Holden speaking at the Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, the ride-hailing company’s planned flying taxi service will soon make its debut.
Uber’s Elevate project, the company’s flying car taxi service, is planned to launch in Dallas-Fort Worth, Dubai, and now, Los Angeles, in a bid to elevate commuters from nightmarish traffic by 2020.
For Los Angeles, this is big news. And it’s no wonder the city has become one of Uber’s priorities. LA clocked an average of 104 hours in traffic jams in 2016 alone, making it the most traffic-congested city on the planet.
Holden also mentioned that Uber had recently entered into a Space Act Agreement with NASA to develop their aerial taxi vision into reality. According to the agreement, Uber will develop a new air traffic control system for their flying taxis.
From an interview with The Verge, Holden said, “NASA is very focused on getting [uncrewed traffic management] adoption and pressure-testing the framework and make sure it works correctly. Uber is actually trying to put this new air traffic system into production.”
But the Elevate project still faces some significant hurdles. For one, the type of aircraft Uber has envisioned to shuttle passengers from rooftop to rooftop—electric, autonomous, and with the ability to take off and land vertically—doesn’t exist yet. The infrastructure to support these vehicles doesn’t exist yet either, an issue Uber’s agreement with NASA aims to solve.
Uber has said that developing infrastructure would be necessary to get their vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) flying taxis off the ground. In February, the company also enlisted a former NASA engineer to help design their flying taxi system.
The ride-hailing company isn’t the only one working on flying cars or a flying taxi service. At least 19 companies are developing flying-car plans, including legacy manufacturers like Boeing and Airbus, as well as startups like Google founder Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk. But Uber has made significant strides in partnering with a handful of aircraft manufacturers, real estate firms, and regulators to improve its chances of developing its on-demand flying taxi service.
Uber is making sure its flying taxi service will be launching soon. “It’s been a really interesting process getting our vehicle manufacturing partners aligned on performance specifications, so that they’re building vehicles that align with what we need to make Elevate successful,” Holden said. “So lots of good progress there.”