Toyota just invested $394M in a secretive startup that makes flying taxis

Numerous electric-powered flying taxis whizzing about over busy cities may sound like the stuff of sci-fi, but a number of significant players are working hard to make it a reality.

Take Toyota. The Japanese car giant has just pumped a hefty $394 million into Joby Aviation, a California-based company developing an all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for fast, quiet, and affordable air transportation services.

The automaker will also share its expertise in manufacturing, quality, and cost controls to support the development and production of Joby’s flying taxi, versions of which it has been working on for a decade.

Toyota’s financial backing is part of a bigger cash boost for Joby that came in a recent funding round worth $590 million, bringing Joby’s total funding to date to an impressive $720 million.

Joby Aviation

“We are building a new system for transportation to transform your daily life, at greater safety and, in time, at a similar cost to driving,” JoeBen Bevirt, Joby’s founder and CEO, said in a release. “This collaboration with Toyota represents an unprecedented commitment of money and resources for us and this new industry from one of the world’s leading automakers.”

Joby’s piloted five-seat aircraft switches to wing-borne forward flight after taking off vertically using multiple rotors. It can reach 200 mph and fly around 150 miles on a single charge. Joby says the vehicle is “100 times quieter than conventional aircraft during takeoff and landing,” and “near-silent” when flying overhead.

Toyota president and CEO Akio Toyoda described air transportation as a “long-term goal” for his company, adding, “As we take up the challenge of air transportation together with Joby, an innovator in the emerging eVTOL space, we tap the potential to revolutionize future transportation and life.”

News of the massive cash injection comes just a week after Korean car giant Hyundai unveiled the S-A1, a flying taxi it is building in partnership with Uber. Other firms around the world are also working on similar designs in what could be a lucrative market for those that can make it happen.

But current challenges include persuading regulators of the safety of the flying machines, as well as the safety of the airspace in which they fly. Their environmental impact in areas such as noise will also be a consideration. The Federal Aviation Administration is already nervous enough about much smaller drones flying over urban areas, so it’s likely to be a while before it gives the green light to the kind of service Joby Aviation and others are proposing.

Still, with continued backing from big companies and proper planning, the sight of taxis flying overhead could one day become a reality.

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