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NASA Transportation Technology

NASA Is Working With Uber on Its Flying Taxi Project 51

Ride-hailing service Uber on Wednesday took a step forward in its plan to make autonomous "flying taxis" a reality, signing a contract with NASA to develop the software to manage them. From a report: Uber said at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon that it signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA for the development of "unmanned traffic management." This is NASA's push to figure out how unmanned aerial systems (UAS), such as drones that fly at a low altitude, can operate safely. Uber wants to make vertical take-off and landing vehicles. That will allow their flying cars to take off and land vertically. They will fly at a low altitude. This is the start-up's first partnership with a U.S. federal government agency. NASA is also working with other companies to develop traffic management for these low altitude vehicles. "UberAir will be performing far more flights on a daily basis than it has ever been done before. Doing this safely and efficiently is going to require a foundational change in airspace management technologies," Jeff Holden, chief product officer at Uber, said in a statement on Wednesday. "Combining Uber's software engineering expertise with NASA's decades of airspace experience to tackle this is a crucial step forward for Uber Elevate."

NASA Is Working With Uber on Its Flying Taxi Project

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  • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Wednesday November 08, 2017 @11:42AM (#55513935)

    So they will with 'ueber' the other uber vehicles.

  • by Baron_Yam ( 643147 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2017 @11:43AM (#55513941)

    You will use a LOT more energy to move a human through the air (especially in something that hovers) than to roll them along a paved surface. It will simply cost more even if it works perfectly.

    And it won't work perfectly, because the failure modes are worse, the weather restrictions greater, and you're still going to need a place to land and it won't be right next to your destination in most cases.

    Cars win. If there's a futuristic transport mode, it's tiny self-driving vehicles that - perhaps - can hop on a rail car for long high-speed trips.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo&world3,net> on Wednesday November 08, 2017 @12:13PM (#55514147) Homepage Journal

      Even if you somehow overcame all that, the other major problem is noise. Because you have to move a lot of air to life that amount of weight, it's impossible to make it quiet and non-disruptive (strong winds blowing everything nearby over).

      The only people who will be able to make use of this are the same ones who can use helicopters now. It's basically a cheaper helicopter alternative. Maybe they will offer semi-affordable hops between helipads.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        Even if you somehow overcame all that, the other major problem is noise. Because you have to move a lot of air to life that amount of weight, it's impossible to make it quiet and non-disruptive (strong winds blowing everything nearby over).

        The only people who will be able to make use of this are the same ones who can use helicopters now. It's basically a cheaper helicopter alternative. Maybe they will offer semi-affordable hops between helipads.

        I thought this was about NASA needing to find alternate sources of funding now the US Govt has an anti-science hard on.

        If NASA can sucker some funds out of Uber, I cant see a problem here. Its not like Uber is the cleanest, most honest company in the known universes... or even the street they reside on.

    • You will use a LOT more energy to move a human through the air (especially in something that hovers) than to roll them along a paved surface.

      But you aren't moving the same weight. A typical car car weighs 4000 lbs, seats four, and carries one. Also, most cars use inefficient ICEs, and will continue to do so for a long time. The air-ubers are electric.

      "Energy efficiency" is not really an important metric anyway. People will use this to save time, not money. During rush hour, it can take me two hours or more to travel from San Jose to San Francisco. The energy cost is about $7 (2 gallons of gas), but I would gladly pay $100, maybe more, to g

    • Well, why don't trains obsolete airplanes, for moving freight, then? Moving stuff along the ground requires infrastructure on the ground - this is incredibly expensive, and is a political nightmare in many cases, to the point that it takes decades to get anything built - moving stuff through the air avoids this entire issue. It's less efficient, sure - but it's the future. The cost of the energy expended, is still going to be less than the cost of trying to utilize infrastructure on the ground, which simp
  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Wednesday November 08, 2017 @11:45AM (#55513951)

    Also if they need a pilot then it will cost a bit to have commercial pilots. And also the costs of FAA code audits.

    FAA Maintenance rules for commercial use are higher then non commercial use.

    • Also if they need a pilot ...

      There will be no pilot. That is clearly stated in TFA and in the summary.

      If they need a human pilot, then there no way Uber could price it low enough to make it viable.

  • Uber wants to make vertical take-off and landing vehicles. That will allow their flying cars to take off and land vertically.

    Thanks for that useful clarification - I wondered what vertical take-off and landing vehicles would be able to do.

  • by WheezyJoe ( 1168567 ) <fegg@nosPaM.excite.com> on Wednesday November 08, 2017 @12:00PM (#55514043)

    Flying cars, and even self-driving cars, encourage MORE cars and there's nowhere to put them(*).

    People watch the Jetsons [wikipedia.org] and think the flying car is the ultimate future. No. The ultimate Jetsons future is the folding car, where at the end of his commute George pushes a button and his flying car folds up into a briefcase [youtube.com] small enough to lie on his desk. Work on that, NASA!

    * Okay, maybe your self-driving car can drop you off, then drive itself away somewhere, sit around, chatting with other self-driving cars about how their owners treat them, maybe get itself into trouble in a traffic jam just when you page it to come pick you up. Great. Your own car tells you it's going to be late because some asshole autonomous Bolt won't get out of lane. Then it'll get all hurt when you hitch a ride with a friend, sulks in the garage for a week before an online update cheers it up again.

    • The ultimate Jetsons future is the folding car, where at the end of his commute George pushes a button and his flying car folds up into a briefcase [youtube.com] small enough to lie on his desk.

      Maybe we just need to pursue an idea from Ancient Arabic Fairy Tales: a Flying Carpet!

      Just roll it up and tuck it under your arm.

    • >Flying cars, and even self-driving cars, encourage MORE cars

      Only if you're committed to the idea of individual ownership. With autonomous vehicles though you have the potential to make a "taxi service" that's cheaper to use than owning the car, while still retaining almost all the convenience (aside from using your car for storage). Most people use their car what, maybe an hour or two per day? So 4-6 people could potentially share the same car if their schedules meshed perfectly, each paying under 1/

      • With autonomous vehicles though you have the potential to make a "taxi service" that's cheaper to use than owning the car, while still retaining almost all the convenience (aside from using your car for storage).

        Why wait for autonomous vehicles ?
        Car-sharing services [catch-a-car.ch] already work well as of today. And some (as the specific "free floating" example I've linked) are completely straight forward :
        inside the coverage zone, you can pick up any car you find (an app can help you locate one if there's currently none in street down from your building) and leave it anywhere in the coverage zone.

        Most people use their car what, maybe an hour or two per day? So 4-6 people could potentially share the same car if their schedules meshed perfectly, each paying under 1/4 of the purchase price and a bit more in mileage/maintenance costs than they normally would (since the car also has to drive between users).

        Obviously finding 4 people whose schedules mesh that perfectly is all but impossible, but with a big enough pools of cars and riders the discrepancies are easy to compensate for.

        Actually there has been some studies done by ETHZ on the above mentioned car sharing system, and indeed, it's been proven than one such

      • Your idea is great, for other people. Just not me.
        I honestly can't stand most people. The majority of people are loud, smelly, obnoxious, assholes, who absolutely refuse to cleanup their own messes.
        So unless someone is going to clean these vehicles on a VERY regular basis, they will be unusable in a very short time. There is a ride share company that parks their cars down the street from my work. I walk by them on quite regularly, from what I have seen, you couldn't get me in one of these cars without a
  • A broken-down vehicle will no longer just cause a traffic nightmare, but will be
    Death From Above!

  • In a clean up company to take care of all the falling debris from 'fender benders'
  • they're private jets. And I do not like the idea of our ruling elites getting access to them. For one thing Roads, like most things, are allowed because they suit their needs. Take that away and they'll fight to stop funding them so they can pocket the costs. And then there's the massive amount of resources we're going to devote to getting them around town. Those resources are still finite and if we're spending a huge amount of them on something so trivial it's going to impact the rest of us.

    It's anothe
  • Cars don't do very well on icy roads, or in low visibility conditions. Even if you make flying taxis as safe as cars on road for these weather conditions, it would not be enough. Liability of cars on icy roads is grandfathered into the system. Autonomous flying taxis are new. They will find it very difficult to get the same sweet deal on liability.
  • I wonder why NASA thinks Uber has some know how about flying autonomous vehicles.

    Their ground autonomous vehicles have not being very impressing so far

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