NASA Is Helping Uber Bring Flying Taxis to Los Angeles

November 8, 2017, 1:34 PM UTC

Uber has plans to take its on-demand service to the Los Angeles skies. And to do it, its recruited the help of NASA.

At the Lisbon Web Summit Wednesday, Uber announced its intentions to build a network of flying taxis within L.A. by 2020, the Verge reports. NASA signed an agreement to develop a specialize air traffic control system for the vehicles, according to Uber chief product officer Jeff Holden.

“Technology will allow L.A. residents to literally fly over the city’s historically bad traffic, giving them time back to use in far more productive ways,” Holden said, according to USA Today. “At scale, we expect UberAir will perform tens of thousands of flights each day across the city.”

Los Angeles joins Dallas-Fort Worth, and Dubai as the cities Uber is hoping to introduce its new flying car project, dubbed “Elevate.” To showcase its vision, the company rolled out a video demonstrating how the service will work.

In the clip, a woman books her flight through the Uber app and then heads to a “skyport” on the roof of a nearby building. A scan of her smartphone allows her to pass through a turnstile and notifies her of which boarding pad to enter. She then boards the flying taxi and takes off, with the ability to monitor her destination time and pilot, while glancing down at the lines of car traffic below. The video ends with the tagline: “Closer than you think.”

The question now is whether Uber can actually roll out the product within three years. The company has yet to develop vehicles that utilize the vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology that shuttles passengers in the video. Infrastructure would also have to be established. But the promise is certainly there: as a graphic shared with USA Today reveals, a trip from L.A.’s Staples Center to the airport can take about an hour and twenty minutes in a car.

But with flying taxis? Uber is promising just 27 minutes.