Electric ‘flying taxi’ with ‘numerous propellers’ given boost by Toyota

At a private airfield somewhere between Monterey and Santa Barbara in California, you’ll find Joby Aviation’s electric “air taxi,” as JoeBen Bevirt likes to call it.

Bevirt founded Joby nine years ago to develop a short-hop aircraft system and is also the company’s CEO. With a slew of rivals currently clamoring to build their own flying car for personal transportation, competition is tough. But Joby is clearly doing something right as it has just received $100 million in venture funding from several major outfits that include Toyota A.I. Ventures, Intel Capital, and JetBlue Technology Ventures.

Bevirt is pretty secretive about the aircraft’s design (the Joby image above is from 2014), telling a recent visiting Bloomberg reporter not to spill the beans on the “physical specifics” of its working prototype. What we do know is that it’s an “exotic-looking white aircraft with numerous propellers,” suggesting a machine that’s part plane and part drone.

As you’d expect with such a vehicle, it’s capable of a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL), with a flight speed twice that of a helicopter. And yes, this is much more than just a pretty prototype that likes to stay close to terra firma — Bloomberg witnessed a demonstration that took the aircraft on a 15-minute flight well beyond the airfield.

The final design is likely to be a five-seat aircraft capable of 150 miles of flight time on a single charge. It also aims to be 100 times quieter during takeoff and landing than conventional aircraft.

Joby Aviation is convinced the skies will one day be busy with small, short-hop aircraft, carrying people across cities in a matter of minutes — and at an affordable price.

“People waste billions of hours sitting on roads worldwide each year,” Bevirt said in a release on Thursday. “We envision a future where commuting by eVTOL is a safer, faster, and cost-competitive alternative to ground transportation.”

He added that backing from “leaders in auto manufacturing, data intelligence, and transportation sectors” means his team is “now ready to build a commercial version of the aircraft.”

With its fresh funds, Joby is now working to expand its team to bring in more experts in areas such as structural engineering, electrical engineering, flight controls, and software.

Mindful of the competition, Bevirt prefers to keep his aircraft under wraps for now, but we’ll be sure to update with images once he finally decides to show off his flying taxi to the world.

Emerging Tech

‘Rogue medicine in a bathtub’: 4 experts on the vice and virtue of pharma hacking

A biohacker, pharmahacker, and two bioethicists walk into a bar. We ordered them a metaphorical round and had a chat about the risks and rewards of DIY medicine — from unsanctioned gene therapy to medication made on the kitchen counter.
Computing

Apple AR glasses will launch in 2020, says respected industry analyst

Apple AR glasses may be closer to reality than we thought. Here is everything we know so far about the augmented reality system, including the rumored specifications of Apple's Project Mirrorshades.
Product Review

Brutal and emotional, 'God of War' is everything a blockbuster game should be

In a new land, on a new journey, God of War evolves beyond the button-mashing action of its youth into an action game with engaging combat and an engrossing story.
Gaming

How to take your 'Madden NFL 19' Ultimate Team from zeros to heroes

Our Madden NFL 19 Ultimate Team progression guide walks you through the ins and outs of Training, the new upgrade system in the card-collecting online mode, and provides tips for quickly improving your team.
Emerging Tech

Meet the Mantis Q: A drone you can control by yelling, waving, or even smiling

"Mantis, take a picture." Yuneec's new consumer drone, the Yuneec Mantis Q, responds to voice commands along with gestures and smiles. The 4K drone also integrates several different flight modes and safety features inside a one-pound…
Emerging Tech

This robot arm could soon recharge your electric car, no driver effort required

Researchers in Austria have developed a smart robotic charger that can automatically plug itself into any electric vehicle, no driver effort required whatsoever. What could be simpler?
Emerging Tech

Police body cams are scarily easy to hack into and manipulate, researcher finds

Nuix cybersecurity expert Josh Mitchell has demonstrated how it is possible to hack into and potentially manipulate footage from police body cams. The really scary part? It's shockingly easy.
Emerging Tech

Scientists try to trick brains of amputees with phantom limb syndrome

New research might help some amputees better mesh what they see with what they feel. In a recently published paper, researchers show how an amputee’s brain can be tricked into believing a prosthetic hand belongs to their own body.
Emerging Tech

Los Angeles subway to become first in the U.S. to use body scanners

Los Angeles is set to become the first city in the U.S. to use body scanners on its subway. The machines are portable and quick to set up, and can check around 2,000 people an hour without causing lines or delays for passengers.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Gaming

How to connect a Nintendo Switch controller to your PC

Nintendo's Switch controllers, including the Joy-Cons and the aptly titled Pro Controller, use Bluetooth, which makes them compatible with your PC. Here's how to start using them for PC gaming.
Emerging Tech

Regular Wi-Fi can accurately detect bombs, chemicals, and weapons in bags

Surveillance cameras and bag searches have become commonplace when it comes to security in public venues. But researchers may have found a different way to detect suspicious items: regular Wi-Fi.
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here’s all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Emerging Tech

Science says waste beer could help us live on Mars

Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a new super-insulating gel, created from beer waste, which could one day be used for building greenhouse-like habitats on Mars.