Uber has been involved with regulatory issues around the world over its app-based ride-sharing service, and is hoping to avoid similar problems over its air plans.
The ride-hailing firm announced November 8 that L.A. will be one of the first cities served by UberAir, which it says will begin ferrying passengers across the region in electric aircraft in 2020.
The ride-hailing company Uber says it has signed a deal with the US space agency NASA to develop a fleet of flying vertical takeoff and landing taxis by the end of the decade.
Uber however won't be constructing said aircraft. "Uber wouldn't even build something like this if it wasn't for everyone", said Holden. Holden said the company envisions tens of thousands of flights taking place each day. The company's vision involves a fleet of vertical take-off and landing aircraft that will fly at a low altitude, and will be able to pick up and drop off up to four passengers at selected locations.
"We are bringing uberAIR to Los Angeles in no small part because Mayor Garcetti has embraced technology and innovation, making L.A. a hub for the future", Holden said in the release.
Designs for the aircraft - which differ from helicopters in appearance, technical features, efficiency and fuel consumption - are yet to be finalized.
In a white paper published a year ago, Uber outlined hurdles the company is likely to face, including infrastructure challenges, pilot training and certification and air traffic concerns. It plans to build no aircraft itself. Uber revealed the new NASA Space Act Agreement at the Web Summit conference recently, marking its first deal with a federal agency. 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.
The vehicles look a bit like the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor planes that can take off vertically, then tilt the rotors forward for speedy horizontal flight.
"Flying autonomous vehicle technology is developing rapidly, but it's likely to be more disruptive than transformational", analysts Kimberly Harris-Ferrante and Michael Ramsey said.