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What Uber Brings to the Flying Car Game

November 8, 2017, 2:28 PM UTC

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Good morning from the coldest day of the season so far in Boston, Aaron in for Adam.

We’ve all been waiting since The Jetsons for flying cars, but despite the occasional hype of startup after startup, we’re still driving around firmly in contact with the pavement.

Now I’m starting to think that maybe the key missing component all these years wasn’t finding someone to build a vehicle that could fly and drive. It was finding someone who could develop a business case to build a whole ecosystem supporting flying cars and make the expense of developing the technology worthwhile. After all, a flying car isn’t going anywhere without customers, who then need air driving training, perhaps, and an infrastructure that supports a brand new mode of transport—not to mention government approval and rules of the road, err, I mean sky?

All of which makes it kind of exciting that today Uber, which has already been talking up the flying taxi concept, announced it will be working with NASA to create the needed air traffic management system. The concept is auto-piloted air cars that will bypass traffic jams and make commuter runs above overcrowded freeways or even short jaunts between closely connected cities.

Terrafugia has just been granted permission to fly small, unmanned prototypes of their TF-X flying car by the FAA.Terrafugia

Partnering with government bodies hasn’t been Uber’s strong suit, although under new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, it’s certainly now a priority. And getting flying taxis off the ground can’t be achieved with Silicon Valley’s old strategy of “don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness.” So it’s encouraging to hear that Uber is going to connect its obvious business strengths with NASA’s effort to create a framework for managing and overseeing traffic of low altitude flyers.

Uber says the flying taxis could be running in Los Angeles in time for the 2028 Olympics. Not bad.