Uber has teamed up with NASA. The goal: to develop software that can be used as air control for flying cars in order to create an airborne taxi service similar to the one Uber currently runs at a much lower altitude.
Here's what Reuters had to report on the news:
“Uber said on Wednesday it was the first formal services contract by the U.S. National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) covering low-altitude airspace rather than outer space. NASA has used such contracts to develop rockets since the late 1950s.
“Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden also said Uber would begin testing proposed four-passenger, 200-miles-per-hour (322-km-per-hour) flying taxi services across Los Angeles in 2020, its second planned test market after Dallas/Fort Worth.”
The move makes sense: If flying cars are going to be the future of transport, we'll need a self-driving system. After all, four-way stops create enough accidents when we can only drive forwards and backwards. Imagine a flying bus shifting down a lane from directly above you.
Uber has long been in a PR desert thanks to their ingrained culture of abuse and shady business practices. Now the company appears to be using the latest news to build a narrative that they've changed. Check out how Holden framed the news in an interview he gave prior to the flying taxi announcement:
“There is a reality that Uber has grown up a lot as a company. We are now a major company on the world stage and you can’t do things the same way where you are a large-scale, global company that you can do when you are a small, scrappy startup.”
While Uber is likely still its own worst enemy, the news is proof that it can't yet be discounted as a business force. However, the company's burning through money fast, and self-driving tech is a competitive field. It's anyone's guess whether they'll pull off their pivot towards flying taxis.
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