NASA and Uber have signed an agreement to explore putting flying taxis in the skies over US cities.
NASA said on Tuesday, 8 May, that it will begin simulations for so-called "urban air mobility" vehicles that also include delivery drones.
The announcement comes as the Uber Elevate summit in Los Angeles brings together tech and transportation leaders to discuss the future of urban aviation.
NASA says the goal is to create a rideshare network that will allow residents to hail a small aircraft the same way Uber users can now use an app to call a car. The space agency says simulations are planned at its research facility at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.
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According to AFP, Uber showed films and models of a futuristic city with such vehicles, seemingly inspired by the film "Blade Runner."
The concept includes "skyports" that would serve as hubs for the aerotaxis. Several other companies along with Uber are trying to develop similar kinds of aerial devices, says AFP.
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According to AFP, Uber's new prototype vehicle aims to alleviate urban congestion.
"Our goal is to radically improve global mobility," says Uber Aviation product chief Nikhil Goel, adding that the all-electric flyer can achieve speeds over 300 kilometres an hour with a range of 100 kilometres on a battery charge.
"We fly a lot so we can prove to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the public that these aircraft are safe," he says.
Eric Allison, who heads Uber's Aviation programmes, told AFP the flying vehicles are part of an overall strategy allowing people to do without personal cars.
"The rational choice for transportation will be less and less to own and drive a car," Allison says, adding "We want to price it so low, it'll be irrational to drive your car."
The first flying taxis will be designed with a pilot, according to Allision, but over time can be developed as autonomous vehicles.
Uber operations director Jeff Holen says the obstacles to the new transport mode are mostly around regulations of air space, adding, "The technology exists ... we can solve this today."