Uber and Nasa are teaming up to develop software that would allow flying cars in major cities to have free air space during travel.
The National Aeronautical and Space Administration is aiming to help Uber debut the flying cars by 2020. Dallas and Dubai have already been selected as the first cities for testing. Los Angeles will later become a test site. There are no details yet on any UK cities hosting a trial.
The electric taxis would be part drone, part fixed-wing aircraft. Customers would still order their rides via a mobile app.
Chief product officer at Uber Jeff Holden announced the partnership at a Web Summit in Lisbon. "We are very much embracing the regulatory bodies and starting very early in discussions about this and getting everyone aligned with the vision," he said.
But not everyone is sold on the idea. University of Birmingham professor David Dunn told the BBC the promise of flying taxis was similar to American airline Pan Am promising to take customers to the moon in the 1960s. "Technologically it is feasible but that is not to say that it is feasible in terms of opening up airspace," Dunn said. "There are problems about how such transport will be policed, insured and registered. Uber is associating its brand with the future. This might be more about marketing than a realistic product."
Uber would not be involved in developing the flying cars and will just focus on the software to ensure free airspace. It is reportedly working with developer Sandstone Properties to build roof-top landing pads.
Uber is still locked in a battle with Travel For London over its licensing. TFL announced it would not renew Uber's right to operate in London and the ride-hailing service is appealing the decision. Uber is free to operate until a verdict is delivered. No other UK cities have been affected by the decision.