NASA enlists universities, companies to help design flying taxis

NASA has given the University of California, San Diego $5.8 million to help develop electric-powered flying taxis, a form of ride sharing that has been envisioned for decades but is struggling to get beyond the concept stage.

UCSD will lead a group of universities and companies in creating software tools to design small fleets of vertical takeoff-and-landing (eVTOL) aircraft that are quieter, safer, cleaner and more efficient and affordable than helicopters.

Customers would go to conveniently located taxi stands, where they could hail a ride with a smartphone app and join other passengers in getting quickly transported significant distances in areas where ground traffic is often congested.

Some taxis might be pilotless, flying automated, preset routes.

The concept ā€” also known was urban air mobility, or UAM ā€” is largely meant for sprawling areas such as Los Angeles, which has some of the nation’s worst traffic.