Uber is ready to expand the flight taxi project with NASA

Full-size design models of Uber's flying taxi.               CBS News

Full-size design models of Uber's flying taxi. CBS News

Although piloted at first, the goal is for the flying taxis to become autonomous.

Bell Helicopter unveiled its cabin design for the air taxi earlier this year in January at the Consumer Electronics Show, which boasted a sleek, futuristic form with narrow noses at either end of the body. For now, the project is starting with the NASA-Uber partnership aimed at assessing the impact of a low-altitude small aircraft flying above the congested traffic in Dallas-Fort Worth. As part of the pact, the ride-hailing company will share data related to its efforts to build flying taxis in 2020 for the development of NASA's urban air mobility (UAM) program.

Elevate, also the name of Uber's flying taxi business, wants to let passengers hail a flying auto via app and hop from one rooftop sky port to another.

The ride-hailing company announced during its two-day Elevate Summit that it's taking applications until Jul. 1 from worldwide cities that want to become an uberAIR launch city.

Uber has promised to get its flying cars into the air over Dallas, Dubai, and Los Angeles by 2020.

"We think cities are going to go vertical in terms of transportation and we want to make that a reality", Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CBS News.

Uber envisages its air taxis picking up passengers at skyports on top of buildings or stations on the ground. When the Olympics come to Los Angeles in 2028, Uber expects to have hundreds, if not thousands, of its aircraft in the skies. The air taxis will then fly 1,000 to 2,000 feet off the ground, something Uber says will be possible thanks to the electric motors and multiple props, which make the aircraft quieter than a helicopter. As per agreement, it presented the flying auto concept.

California-based Karem is the latest aircraft manufacturer to partner with Uber to develop its flying taxis.

And while UberAir may seem futuristic and unusual, it's also got support from federal agencies including NASA and the U.S. Army. Uber had previously meant to launch in Dubai, but ran into delays.

However, Uber stated that it will not venture directly in manufacturing the vehicles but will work with industry leaders to produce vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircrafts that will use the uberAIR network.

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