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Uber Is Launching a Flying Car Research Lab in Paris

May 24, 2018
3 min read
Uber Is Launching a Flying Car Research Lab in Paris
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Uber is continuing its quest to be more than just a rideshare company. It just announced that it's investing more money into its flying car program currently referred to as Uber Elevate.

Per the announcement, Uber will establish a research and development center in Paris dedicated to flying cars — investing 20 million euros in the center over the next five years. It will be called the Advanced Technology Center Paris and will be Uber's first R&D lab outside North American when it opens this fall. Workers at the center will help develop AI and other air traffic control systems that can be used when a large air taxi system comes into use.

France is known for its deep pool of talent in the aeronautics field and is home to Airbus headquarters. Amazon and NASA recently set up camp in the country to develop air traffic control systems for the coming wave of delivery drones.

École Polytechnique, a university in suburban Paris, will collaborate with Uber "on research across artificial intelligence, aviation and all-electric transport."

The announcement described potential urban air mobility ventures:

Initial projects will include: machine learning-based transport demand modeling, high-density low-altitude air traffic management simulations, integration of innovative airspace transport solutions with European aviation regulators such as EASA, and the development of smart grids to support future fleets of electric transport on the ground and in the air.

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Uber hopes the center will accelerate its flying car program and get it closer to promised demonstration flights in 2020. The program hopes to develop autonomous flying "cars" that are purely powered by electricity and that would transport riders via air instead of the ground. The vehicles would be able to take off and land similarly to a helicopter, but with a much lower operating cost than a traditional VTOL aircraft.

Uber wrapped up its second Uber Elevate conference a few weeks ago where the company announced a new concept vehicle, an expanded partnership with NASA and a new agreement with the US Army. The program is still a long way from mass use — most of these aircraft are still in the early stages of development and its economics are questionable.

Airbus actually demonstrated a working electric VTOL aircraft in February and volocopter showed off its working prototype in January.