Flying Taxis? Uber could be bringing flying taxis to LA by 2020

Ride-hailing service Uber has struck a deal with NASA to develop a fleet of air taxis.

The company unveiled an artist's impression of the sleek, futuristic machine it hopes to start using for demonstration flights in 2020 and have the service commercially available by 2023. 

It was presented at a technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal today.

The battery-powered aircraft looks like a cross between a small plane and a helicopter, with fixed wings and rotors.

The plan faces plenty of challenges, including certification of the new vehicle by authorities, pilot training and conceiving urban air traffic management systems.

The idea is to build a network of vertical takeoff and landing aircraft that would greatly reduce commutes, while also helping to ease vehicle pollution in major cities. Uber also hopes it will eventually cost commuters less than using their own car. 

"So how much will this cost to riders? Is this going to just be a luxury thing for the rich, like helicopters are kind of thought of today? Well Uber wouldn't even build something like this if it weren't going to be for everyone. So we need a clear path to making UberAIR affordable, and our target - and this is ambitious - but I think it's very achievable, is to make this less expensive than driving your own car. Like literally pushing a button and getting a flight becomes cheaper than driving your own car, seriously," said Jeff Holden the Chief Product Officer for Uber. 

Uber also announced that Los Angeles will be the second U.S. city where it will test its UberAIR service. Dallas-Fort Worth is the first U.S. launch partner, while Dubai will be the first global city.

Uber's air travel initiative was announced last October with the promise of putting an end to long commutes, letting passengers hail an aircraft ride with the push of a button. In the case of Los Angeles, Uber has 20 strategically placed locations around the city for the Uber network.

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