Uber’s ambitious plan to launch an urban air taxi service has been boosted by a secretive, well-funded start-up,media outlet The Verge reported. The ride-hailing service said it would work with Joby Aviation, a California-based aerospace company that has been working on electric aviation for more than a decade. Joby will help Uber launch its air taxi service by 2023.
Inventor Joe Ben Bevirt founded Joby in 2009. The company remained relatively obscure until 2018, when Joby announced that it had raised a staggering $100 million from a variety of investors, including Intel, Toyota’s venture capital arm and JetBlue. The money funded the development of the company’s air taxi prototype, which has been testing at Athens’ private jet in Northern California.
Unlike dozens of other companies that are currently building electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, Joby keeps most of its projects secret. A few renderings show an “aircraft-drone” hybrid with 12 rotors and a cabin capacity of four passengers. A spokesman has previously said what Joby is working on is “new.” The company has not provided any services.
Bloomberg’s 2018 profile of Joby reveals some tantalizing details about the company’s project:
We were one of the first two journalists to see the prototype demo, named Rachel. The pilot took off vertically, flew for 15 minutes in a 15-mile loop and landed safely. The air taxi is powered by an electric motor and advanced control software, like a drone and a small aircraft, capable of taxiing vertically up during take-off and then flying at twice the speed of a helicopter, with low noise. Bevirt says thousands of such air taxis will one day transport people around the city and fly over the regular traffic below.
Uber said it had signed a multi-year commercial contract with Joby to “provide fast, reliable, environmentally friendly and affordable city air taxi services in certain markets.” Neither company disclosed the terms of the deal and would not comment on any deals.
They do outline the role each company will play. Joby will provide and operate electric air taxis, and Uber will provide air traffic control assistance, landing platform construction, and connections to ground traffic.
Uber has previously released images of its own concept aircraft, although it says it is looking for partners that meet its technical specifications (electric, least noise, vertical take-off and landing capabilities) – as well as companies that are expanding production to meet the needs of tens of thousands of vehicles in its on-demand service.
Joby is not Uber’s only manufacturing partner. The company has previously announced that it will work with six other aerospace companies – Jaunt, Embraer, Pipistrel, Karem Aircraft, Aurora Flight Sciences and Bell – to develop its prototype aircraft. as part of its air taxi service.
Bevirt, chief executive of Joby Aviation, said he believed air taxis would allow people to “travel five times faster than driving, reduce urban congestion and accelerate the shift to sustainable modes of transport.” He said in a statement that he was excited about his partnership with Uber. Eric Allison, the head of Elevate, praised Joby as “a true technology leader whose vehicles are designed to provide safe, quiet and affordable services to Uber Air passengers.” “