Uber inks deal with NASA to map aerial taxi routes

Uber plans to launch UberAIR in LA in 2020.                  Uber

Uber plans to launch UberAIR in LA in 2020. Uber

On stage in Lisbon, Uber's Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden showed off the first teaser video for one of Uber's flying vehicle concept designs.

The four-person ridesharing flights won't become a reality anytime soon but Holden said there are plans for demonstrations of the flying vehicle network in Los Angeles, in addition to previously announced cities, Dallas and Dubai, in 2020.

Eric Garcetti, mayor of LA, said the city is the "perfect" place to test the new service.

Uber chief product officer Jeff Holden announced today at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon that the ride-hailing company has made a deal with NASA to create software that will help manage flying taxi routes.

"The space act that we signed with NASA is initially about collaboration around air traffic management", Holden told NBC News.

Earlier this year, Uber contacted authorities in Dubai and the Dallas-Fort Worth area in order to test its flying taxis in those regions.

The company's plans may cause some skepticism considering 2020 is only two years away.

First, electric vehicles that perform as the company hopes just don't exist. And the Federal Aviation Administration must ensure that the aircraft meet safety regulations, not to mention how they'll fare alongside other aircraft. "By the time the Olympics come in 2028, we believe Los Angeles residents will be making heavy use of uberAIR, showcasing one of the most advanced urban transportation systems in the world, and because uberAIR is all-electric from day one, it will have a net positive impact on the environment", concluded Holden. Uber doesn't think so.

The company has taken steps to address some of those issues: It announced November 8 that it signed an agreement with real estate developer Sandstone Properties to build take-off and landing hubs at Los Angeles International Airport and in downtown L.A., Santa Monica and Sherman Oaks in time for a 2020 launch.

In its presentation, Uber showed how a 16-mile ride in an Uber vehicle from Los Angeles International Airport to the Staples Center downtown would usually take about an hour and 20 minutes. It was finding someone who could develop a business case to build a whole ecosystem supporting flying cars and make the expense of developing the technology worthwhile.

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