Uber is working with Nasa to build and test flying cars

Uber signed a deal with NASA Wednesday to help develop traffic systems for its flying auto project which it hopes to start testing in 2020.

The car-hailing company announced a partnership with NASA on Wednesday at Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, to develop a plan for managing urban airspace.

First, electric vehicles that perform as the company hopes just don't exist.

Uber's Chief Product Officer Jeff Holden says he hopes the service will reduce commute times, cut vehicle pollution in major cities and, eventually, the service will be cheaper than if a person were to drive their own auto.

By the 2028 Olympics, Holden said, the company believes Angelenos will be making "heavy use" of UberAir. Uber has faced endless regulatory and legal battles around the world since it launched its ride-hailing services earlier this decade, including a recent showdown in London, where it is battling to retain its licence after having been stripped of it by city regulators over safety concerns.

"On-demand aviation", the company said in an October 2016 white paper on its flying-taxi service, "has the potential to radically improve urban mobility, giving people back time lost in their daily commutes". Rather than offering the service as a luxury product (trips to Coachella Valley from Los Angeles cost passengers $4,170 each way), Uber envisions UberAir as a commuter option, with fares comparable to taking an UberX auto ride. In February, Bloomberg reported that two former NASA employees, Mark Moore and Tom Prevot, joined Uber to work on aircraft design and traffic management software. In addition, Uber is planning to test a flying taxi service of some sort in Los Angeles in a couple years, introducing an alternative to both traditional air and ground travel. With uberAir, there will be an "unprecedented" number of flying aircrafts in cities, he said, and NASA's expertise lies in unmanned aerial systems traffic management that can help come up with answers to controlling air traffic.

Uber said it does not plan to make the drones itself, instead partnering with five manufacturers that are working on new types of vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Areas the flights could serve include Downtown LA, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, and a site within close proximity to LAX.