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Uber to open Paris lab for flying taxis

The

aircraft is a cross between a plane and a helicopter

Uber’s plan to create flying taxis moved a step closer as the ride-hailing firm announced that it will open a laboratory in Paris to develop them.

It will invest €20m (£17.5m) over five years to create AI algorithms and air traffic control systems, among other technology.

It will also partner with prestigious engineering school Ecole Polytechnique.

The announcement will be seen as coup for President Macron who is keen to make France a global technology hub.

“With world-class engineers and a leading role in global aviation, France is the perfect place to advance our Uber Elevate program and new technology initiatives,” Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi said in a statement.

“We’re excited to partner with Ecole Polytechnique to shape the future of urban mobility, on the ground and in the air.”

Tense relationship

Uber Elevate is an ambitious project, with the firm hoping to launch sky taxis by 2023.

It is working with Nasa and the US Army on the project and has two aircraft manufacturers – Embraer and Pipistrel Aircraft – also on-board.

Previously, Uber has had a tense relationship with the French authorities. The government closed one of its services – UberPop – in 2015 and the firm temporarily shut down its Paris service in 2016 in protest against tough new regulations.

President Macron met with technology firms earlier this week at the Elysee Palace in Paris to discuss how they are dealing with issues such as data protection and fake news.

On the back of the meeting, a series of investments have been announced, including:

  • Facebook will fund 48 fellowships in artificial intelligence in four French universities
  • IBM will create 1,800 jobs over the next two years in France to work on AI, blockchain and internet of things technology
  • Food delivery service Deliveroo will invest €100m in France over the next two to three years
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