Ride-sharing giant Uber is partnering with NASA in a bid to bring its flying taxi service into effect by 2023, amid the company’s claims the fleet will be twice as safe as cars.
NASA will explore the concept and technologies behind urban air mobility, contributing airspace management computer modelling to assess the impact of small aircraft in crowded environments.
At the Uber Elevate Summit 2018, Mark Moore, Uber’s director of engineering for aircraft systems, said the company’s “urban air mission” to launch Electonic Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) vehicles is focused on “very much close-proximity operations”.
NASA will use data supplied by Uber to create simulations of small passenger aircraft negotiating Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport airspace during peak traffic times, in a bid to identify any potential safety issues.
In a statement on the partnership, NASA said it wants to ensure small aircraft enter the marketplace as safely as possible, with acceptable levels of noise, and without over-burdening the current air traffic control system.
Moore said at the Uber Elevate Summit this is Uber’s priority, too. He stressed the bare minimum requirements for being able to enter this market is “to be able to achieve very very high safety and very very low noise”.
That’s “the door that’s opening”, he said, adding the flying vehicles Uber has in development will be twice as safe as cars.
Once safety and noise levels have been addressed, he said the next step is to achieve a “high throughput”, adding: “You’ve got to be serious about speed.”
If you can’t get “wing-bourne”, you’re going to be stuck at 50-60mph, Moore said, and you don’t get the benefit of time, “which is the value proposition for this new transportation system”.
Finally, Moore said: “You’ve got to take on low operating costs and high reliability right from the beginning”.
The Financial Times reported Uber plans to have the flying taxi service in operation by 2023, with the first demonstrations set to go ahead in 2020.