Uber unveils plan to bring affordable flying taxis to Los Angeles by 2020

Wednesday, November 08, 2017 04:51PM
Uber aims to have its first paying passengers in various cities around the world by 2023


LOS ANGELES - Flying cars in Los Angeles won't just be something dreamed up by Hollywood movie studios if Uber has its way.

The ride-hailing service unveiled Wednesday an artist's impression of the sleek, futuristic machine it hopes to start using for demonstration flights in Los Angeles by 2020.

"We are bringing uberAIR to Los Angeles in no small part because Mayor (Eric) Garcetti has embraced technology and innovation, making L.A. a hub for the future," Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden said.

The battery-powered aircraft looks like a cross between a small plane and a helicopter, with fixed wings and rotors. It was presented at an international technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal.



The vehicle is intended to soar over traffic congestion, sharply reducing city travel times. Uber hopes it will eventually become a form of mass transport and cost commuters less than using their own car, though initially it will be more expensive than that, according to the company.

"In this case, technology will allow Los Angeles residents to literally fly over the city's historically bad traffic, giving them time back to use in far more productive ways, whether more leisure time with friends and family or more time to work," Holden said.

A ride on uberAIR from Los Angeles International Airport to Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles would take 27 minutes, compared to the typical 80 minutes by car, according to Uber.

The scheme still faces plenty of challenges, including certification of the new vehicle by authorities, pilot training and conceiving urban air traffic management systems that prevent collisions.

Holden said that Uber is joining NASA's project to expand air traffic systems, which scores of other companies already belong to.

He told The Associated Press in an interview that he has no dollar figure for the total investment. He said Uber is putting some of its own money into the project, developing software, while other investors are also involved, such as aircraft manufacturers that are developing the vehicle and real estate companies that are providing so-called 'skyports' where people will catch their airborne taxi.

Uber is keen to move on from a troubled period in which its image has been damaged by investigations that found rampant sexual harassment of employees and multiple reports of drivers assaulting passengers. Holden said those episodes did not slow development of the flying taxi project.

The City News Service contributed to this report.
(Copyright ©2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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