New Zealand Mulls Regulatory Approval of Kitty Hawk Flying Taxis
New Zealand Mulls Regulatory Approval of Kitty Hawk Flying Taxis
Cora can carry two passengers. Supplied
13 March, 2018, 19:41
A flying auto startup backed by Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, has stolen a march on Uber by testing autonomous "air taxis" that could be carrying passengers by 2021.
"The dreamers from California met the visionaries from New Zealand", Kitty Hawk said in a press release that lauds New Zealand for having "a government and society with an eye to the horizon".
This time around, though, Kitty Hawk's ambitions are bigger. It's built to use self-flying software, and uses 12 lift fans for vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) like a helicopter, so there's no need for a runway. Small and effective, the Cora features a range of around 62 miles on a single charge.
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The company is called Kitty Hawk, and it just revealed Cora, a prototype air taxi that takes off like a helicopter, flies like a plane, and uses electric propulsion.
Kitty Hawk is led by CEO Sebastian Thrun - of Google X, Google's self-driving vehicle unit and Google Glass fame. They've found a collaborator in New Zealand; prime minister Jacinda Ardern told The New York Times, "We've got an ambitious target in New Zealand of being net carbon zero by 2050...exciting projects like this are part of how we make that happen".
Kitty Hawk and other companies now pursuing autonomous electric taxi services still face significant regulatory hurdles in the U.S. before the unique business models can become a reality. The vehicles more often look like small planes than flying cars. A timeline on the website shows how far things have come over the years, from its first hover in 2011, first self-piloted transition in 2014 and the beginning of self-piloted testing in New Zealand last October.
Several other companies, including Uber and Airbus, are also racing to commercialize flying taxis.
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