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Uber plans to test a flying taxi service in LA

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It could be up and running by 2020

UberAir rendering
A rendering of what the electric aircraft servicing UberAir may look like.
Courtesy Uber

Not content to flood city streets with self-driving vehicles, tech company Uber is now looking to the sky as well. The company announced Wednesday that it will partner with NASA on a new flying taxi service, and that Los Angeles will be one of the first testing grounds.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden said that testing for the program, called UberAir, would begin in 2020, with short flights of around 25 miles.

According to the company, passengers will travel in as-yet unbuilt electric aircrafts capable of traveling at speeds up to 200 miles per hour. The flights will take off and land at sites the company plans to develop in partnership with real estate investor Sandstone Properties.

Areas the flights could serve include Downtown LA, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, and a site within close proximity to LAX.

And, unlike Uber’s pricey helicopter service, the rides will be relatively affordable compared with other air travel options (Uber expects fares to be comparable to those of its on-the-ground ride-hailing options).

Envisioned as an alternative to LA’s notoriously awful traffic, the service would bring some of that congestion to the skies. Holden tells Bloomberg that, once UberAir is in full swing, there will be an “unprecedented amount of air traffic flying over cities.”

To prevent above-ground gridlock, the company will use new air traffic management technology developed by NASA.

Uber will also rely on outside companies to develop a fleet of aircraft capable of meeting the demands of the taxi service. Eventually, these vehicles—like Uber’s boring old cars and SUVs—could be operated without a driver.

By the time the 2028 Olympics rolls around, the company hopes to see “tens of thousands” of daily flights in the LA area.

A sun-drenched promotional video for the service doesn’t make this seem any less futuristic. Check it out below.