Now automakers are pushing into autonomous cars, but it seems that flying cars will be next and Uber Technologies wants to be the leader. The ride-sharing company has somehow managed to coax a leading NASA engineer away from a cushy government job and into its newly created position of director of engineering for aviation.
Flying cars based on VTOL technology
Mark Moore, formerly with Langley Research Center, published a white paper on vertical takeoff and landing, or VTOL, in 2010. It was that paper which caused Google co-founder Larry Page to start pondering the feasibility of flying cars. He reportedly financed two startups called Kitty Hawk and Zee Aero aiming to develop VTOL technology.
Moore’s idea is a vehicle that is able to take off and land vertically like helicopters do, although it is quieter and smaller. The main purpose of such vehicles is to make the commute much easier by moving through the skies instead of being stuck in traffic on the ground.
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Moore leaves NASA for Uber
The advanced aircraft engineer has worked at NASA for three decades, but he’s leaving to join Uber, seen as a big rival for Google even though the two aren’t really pure rivals just yet. He told Bloomberg that he feels Uber is in the strongest position to be the leader in the flying cars ecosystem and to “make the urban electric VTOL market real.”
Uber published a white paper in October outlining a vision of commutes through the air, and it described some of the technical challenges the industry like noise pollution, battery life and efficiency of vehicles. It said it wants to solve these problems, and Moore served as a consultant for the paper. He was reportedly impressed by the possibilities and the company’s vision.
Uber is up to the challenge
Moore also noted that the challenges facing any company that wants to develop flying cares aren’t purely technical. He explained that negotiations with suppliers are needed in order to bring prices down, and the company would have to lobby regulators for aircraft certifications and relaxed restrictions on air traffic. However, he feels that Uber is in a unique position to demonstrate that the market for flying cars is “massive, profitable and safe.” The new initiative will be called Uber Elevate.
The regulatory challenges he described are similar to those the drone industry faces, and U.S. regulators aren’t exactly moving at a lightning speed pace. It’s only been a couple of years since they began setting forth guidelines for drone usage in the country.