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Uber wants to demonstrate its network of flying cars by 2020

But don’t call them flying cars.

Flying car ports in Dubai
Uber Technologies

Say it with me: Uber is serious about flying cars. Seriously.

Today, at what it calls the Uber Elevate summit, the ride-hail company’s head of product Jeff Holden announced they are shooting to demonstrate its network of flying cars — or Vertical Take-Off and Landing vehicles — by 2020 in both Texas and Dubai.

What does that mean? Uber essentially hopes to be doing what it does for cars today for flying cars in 2020, which is: Dispatching them.

The company won’t be building the vehicles, nor will Uber be developing the charging infrastructure or building the ports for these flying cars alone. Instead, the company is partnering with a variety of aircraft manufacturers, charging company ChargePoint and real estate companies to do that.

The manufacturer partners include Aurora Flight Sciences, Pipistrel Aircraft, Embraer, Mooney and Bell Helicopter.

Don’t believe Uber is bullish on flying car technology yet? The company recently hired Mike Moore, a former 30-year-NASA employee, as its head of aviation engineering.

A Dallas “vertiport” for VTOL vehicles

According to Holden, the company has also begun discussions with NASA and the National Air Traffic Control Association about “airspace management,” which is a fancy way of saying the logistics of dispatching flying cars.

As part of Uber’s partnership with Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority, the two entities will conduct a study on things like pricing and potential VTOL routes. Dubai is quickly becoming a center for transportation innovation. The RTA has already struck up agreements with Hyperloop One — the company attempting to build a tube-like high-speed transport system — and has set a goal of having 20 percent to 30 percent of all its rides be driven autonomously.

But the ride-hail company has stumbled in meeting some of its ambitious deadlines in the past. As we reported, Uber’s self-driving team initially intended to deploy its first public test of its semi-autonomous cars in August 2016 but had to push that timeline back and bring in external help from Otto co-founder Anthony Levandowski.

However, in this case, Uber isn’t in charge of building the actual technology. As the ride-hail company now valued at close to $70 billion illustrated in a white paper published in October, Uber will be in charge of doing what it does best: Managing the on-demand logistics platform.

The burden to meet that 2020 deadline, then, is more on the manufacturers. That said, air space management is undeniably a different beast from ground space management. The company and the many manufacturers now working on flying cars — including Kitty Hawk, a startup backed by Google CEO Larry Page — also have to work with the FAA on regulations before any of this can become a reality.

This article originally appeared on

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