Uber has selected France as the future home for flying taxi production and will invest $23.4 million in the country over the next five years.
According to a report on Thursday, the money will be spent to develop the flying taxis. Uber also announced a five-year research partnership with Ecole Polytechnique, a leading French institute of technology, presumably to aid in the research and development of the electric vertical takeoff and landing craft.
The report said the ride-hailing company will also open a new research and development center in Paris. The facility will be Uber’s first hub outside of North America. Uber operates R&D offices in Pittsburgh, Toronto, and San Francisco, though the sites mostly focus on self-driving car initiatives. The Paris facility should open later this year.
Uber has previously detailed its astounding plans to bring mobility to the skies. While showing off its newest flying taxi prototype, the company said the vehicles will reach elevations of 1,000 to 2,000 feet. The flying taxis would fly on pre-determined “uberAir” routes to shuttle passengers across cities and to other areas. When and if the service rolls out, the company added that humans will pilot the craft until autonomous technology can turn the flying taxis into self-flying vehicles.
Uber is shooting for a 2023 launch for its fleet of flying cars. Initially, Uber expects the flying taxis to require Uber Black pricing.
The ride-hailing company has also partnered with NASA to manage the flying taxis. The goal of the partnership is to bring flying taxis in sync with other air traffic. The company chose NASA because of its experience in unmanned aerial vehicles, and Uber executives hope that NASA’s involvement will help the company find solutions for seamless on-demand air travel.
While Uber moves forward with its dreams for air taxis, the company still has questions to face with its self-driving car program. In March a self-driving Uber vehicle struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. The company’s self-driving car fleet has been grounded since the incident, and it was recently learned that Uber had turned off the automatic braking system in the Volvo XC90 that hit the pedestrian, expecting the driver to take over.