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Russ Seidel / Flickr CC

Uber's latest high-profile hire is an engineer, formerly of NASA, who will "work with companies and stakeholders" interested in a transportation network of aircraft capable of taking off and landing vertically. In less technical terms: that's flying cars.

The news was first reported by Bloomberg's Brad Stone. The engineer, Mark Moore, told him the company is in the right place to be influential over the nascent market:

If you don't have a business case that makes economic sense, than all of this is just a wild tech game and not really a wise investment.

Key context: Uber isn't building its own flying car yet, and WIRED reported in October that it wasn't currently in the cards. But the company has outlined an ambitious vision of a not-so-distant future where customers would travel to a central facility to get into one of the aircraft. A company official said in a statement that Uber wants to be a "catalyst" to getting the idea — no pun intended — off the ground.

The policy angle: Uber has warned that policymakers and industry should work closely with the communities that would see the effects of a network of flying cars. They identified several areas — like noise pollution and privacy — where dreams of flying cars could collide with reality.

Go deeper

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.

2 hours ago - Health

Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European countries are doubling down on pressure campaigns to get people vaccinated just as Republicans continue to wage war — often successfully — against vaccine mandates in the U.S.

Why it matters: The starkly different approaches create a sharp contrast between the regions' approaches to vaccination, even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads around the world.

3 hours ago - World

Two years of COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Two years ago Wednesday, the first case of a mysterious new respiratory disease was discovered in Wuhan, China. Now, the Omicron variant has deepened concerns about just how much longer the coronavirus pandemic will last.

The big picture: More than 5 million people have died since that first case. Most people on earth have lived through some form of lockdown. 54% of the global population has had at least one vaccination, though the shots have been distributed unevenly.