Uber chooses Paris for new advanced aviation research centre

Uber is setting up a new Advanced Technologies Centre in Paris to focus on Uber Elevate, the company’s electric-powered VTOL flight programme.  


According to Eric Allison, head of aviation programmes, the idea for Uber first came on a cold night in Paris when taxis were in short supply. Almost 10 years later, the company is seeking to take the leap from ride-hailing into urban air mobility, and sees the new centre in Paris as a key component in that strategy.

“As we continue to build a mobility platform for everyone, we know we must invest in AI and machine learning,” Allison wrote on the Uber website. “Already we have Uber advanced technology offices in Pittsburgh, Toronto, and San Francisco, where we also have an AI Lab.

“Today we’re committing to a new Advanced Technologies Centre which will initially focus on Uber Elevate. France is a perfect home for our next step forward with its strong history of research and development, world-class engineers and a unique role in aviation worldwide.”

Over $20m will be invested in the Advanced Technologies Center Paris (ATCP) over the next five years. Uber said it will be seeking top engineering, machine learning, and computer vision talent. With its first flight demonstrations planned for 2020, the company needs to rapidly develop capabilities across airspace management, autonomy, real-time communication networks, energy storage, and charging systems. Earlier this month, a partnership with NASA was announced that will aim to address some of these issues. 

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In the past, Uber has fallen foul of regulators and governments, particularly in Europe. However, it claims ATCP will work with the relevant European authorities to model infrastructure needs for electrified transportation. It has also announced a partnership with École Polytechnique and a commitment to endow the first International Academic and Research Chair of “Integrated Urban Mobility”.

“The Chair will collaborate with ATCP on research across artificial intelligence, aviation and all-electric transport,” said Allison.

“Initial projects will include: machine learning-based transport demand modelling, high-density low-altitude air traffic management simulations, integration of innovative airspace transport solutions with European aviation regulators such as EASA, and the development of smart grids to support future fleets of electric transport on the ground and in the air.”