Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden announced on Nov. 8 that the company plans to have a network of flying vehicles in Los Angeles by 2020. Los Angeles would be joining Dallas, Texas and Dubai as the first pilot cities for a service test in 2020 called Uber Elevate, or UberAIR, according to Forbes.
The company plans to partner with NASA on a Space Act Agreement to develop air traffic management systems for the initiative. The newly developed management systems would help keep track of the expected crowded skies, as reported by CNN. The announcement was made by Holden at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal.
“I’m hoping that this is just hype,” said James Devine, a professor of economics. “Flying cars of any sort create a lot of noise, congestion and, possibly, horrible accidents. I think it’s hype, like the idea of using drones to deliver Amazon packages.”
Uber also recently announced its agreement with Sandstone Properties, a property management company in Los Angeles, to develop “Skyport” rooftop take-off and landing terminals. With Sandstone having over twenty buildings around the center of Los Angeles, UberAIR could effectively have several flights all around the city, according to USA Today. The company predicts the service will be in high demand in Los Angeles by the 2028 Olympics, which will be hosted in the city, also reported by USA Today.
“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,” said Holden, as reported by USA Today. “At scale, we expect UberAIR will perform tens of thousands of flights each day across the city.”
A special effects video released on Nov. 8 by the company’s twitter account showed a video of how the technology would work. According to Uber, a ride on UberAIR would take 27 minutes from LAX to the downtown Staples Center, while a car ride would typically take 80 minutes, as reported by Los Angeles Daily News. While Uber had published a white paper in October of 2016 with plans for “urban air transportation,” the company still faces massive hurdles, with several experts still critical of such technology, according to The Verge.
“While air taxis may be in our future, I think it may be a bit optimistic to think that it can be done by 2020, three years from now,” said Jeff Sanny, a professor of physics. “Besides the technology, a number of issues have to be carefully studied and resolved: consumer demand, finances, FAA regulations, etc. Resolving the logistics of such an operation would be a very demanding effort.”