If the last month or so is any indication, Uber is getting rather serious about its plans to put flying taxis into the air. Hot on the feels of its Uber Elevate conference where a raft of vehicle and Skyport concepts came to light, the company has now announced it will build a new research center in France that, at least initially, will be devoted to the cause.
Uber's flying taxi research program is called Elevate, with the non-existent flying taxi service referred to as UberAir for now. With this venture, Uber aims to establish transport networks around cities where vertical take-off and landing aircraft travel between Skyports, which are terminals for the electric aircraft to recharge and passengers to hop on and off.
What is obvious is that this would require some big technological advances when it comes to unmanned aircraft, but what's not so obvious is the path forward from here. Better batteries are going to be a big part of the picture, as are quieter aircraft that cause minimal disturbances and are shown to be extremely reliable.
At its new Advanced Technologies Center Paris (ATCP), its first research center outside North America, Uber says its first focus will be on building artificial intelligence and air traffic management systems. These will be key, it says, to its first demonstration flights planned for 2020.
As part of the same announcement, Uber also revealed it has entered a five-year agreement with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, an institute in Switzerland with a long list of promising robotics and drone research projects. The partnership will explore new approaches to air traffic management, including how to integrate flying taxis with European airspace. The company says it is also pumping €20 million (US$23 million) into developing new technologies over the next five years.
The doors of the ATCP are set to open this autumn (Northern Hemisphere).
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