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WATCH: Uber is working on flying taxis with NASA

Uber might still be years away from a workable self-driving-car business, but the company is already inking deals for a flying taxi business.

The ride-hailing giant on Wednesday announced a “Space Act Agreement” with NASA, where the government agency will collaborate on the uberAIR program — an initiative to develop a transit network of all-electric unmanned aerial vehicles that use vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology.


Uber Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden revealed the plans at the Web Summit tech conference in Lisbon, noting that the air travel pilot programs will be in Los Angeles, Dallas and Dubai.

The new agreement will “help the company’s goal of starting demonstration flights of uberAIR in select U.S. cities by 2020,” Uber said in a press release. “Uber will focus its collaborative efforts specifically on… developing requirements and technology demonstrations for urban air operations.”

Uber’s VTOL plans for now are heavy on CGI (at least in the promo video embedded below) and theory, but light on accomplishments. However, the ride-hailing company is trying to stake out a position in a field that’s getting more crowded every year. Larry Page, the co-founder of Google and CEO of its parent company Alphabet, has put at least $100 million into flying car startups, and one of the companies Page has backed promises to have a commercially viable car available for sale by the end of 2017.

One thing that might give Uber an edge: The company hired VTOL expert and ex-NASA engineer Mike Moore earlier this year. And at the very least, Uber might be feeling pressure to look to the skies given all the trouble it has had on the ground in 2017.

Uber gave VICE News an exclusive first look at this promo for the Uber VTOL taxi service: