Joby Aviation and the Flying Taxi
In the cities of science fiction, flying cars jet in the background in multi-layered, skyscraper-high traffic patterns. From The Jetsons to Minority Report to Blade Runner, flying cars have always been a hard indicator that our setting is “the future.”
But what if that reality was just around the corner — and, even more convenient, in the form of flying Uber?
Joby Aviation, a very hush-hush aviation startup, is rapidly growing traction. They’ve raised over $100 million in investments from big names in tech and aviation, such as Toyota, Intel, and JetBlue.
They’ve been working on designing and perfecting an air-taxi. It’s a plane-drone hybrid with 12 rotors and cabin space for four passengers. Joby claims that their vehicle design is “entirely new,” and have been extremely secretive about their prototypes. They haven’t released any photographs or images of the design, so any images you encounter on the web are pure speculation.
The most detail we’ve received on Joby’s new vehicle was from a Bloomberg reporter, who was granted a private showing in 2018 at Joby’s test facility in Colorado. Bloomberg was unable to provide further detail on Joby’s air-taxi aside from this description: "The pilot managed a vertical takeoff, 15 minutes of flight in a 15-mile loop, and a safe landing. Powered by electric motors and sophisticated control software, the taxi performs like a cross between a drone and a small plane, able to zip straight up on takeoff and then fly at twice the speed of a helicopter while making about as much noise as a swarm of Super Bees."
But why all the secrecy? It may be because Joby Aviation isn’t the only company with dreams of an air-taxi program. Nineteen other companies, like Boeing and Airbus, are supposedly developing air-taxi programs. And large tech companies are founding and devoting new branches entirely to flying car development, such as Uber’s Uber Elevate and Google’s Kitty Hawk.
Much like a helicopter, these vehicles will be able to move perfectly vertically upon liftoff, making them ideal for launch from street level or private launchpads.
With the initial estimates of pricing for fuel and manufacture, it was widely believed that this new system of travel would only be for the super rich. But more recent estimates have shown that with the possibility for pooling — and the possibility of a competitive market for air-taxis — a single, 100 mph ride may cost anywhere between $20 and $50.
When Uber arrived, it absolutely exploded on the scene. It went from an app that only your nephew had heard of to a household verb, practically overnight. I would also expect that kind of rapid, immediate expansion from the air-taxi industry.
So, keep your eyes to the skies and listen out for the sound of Super Bees, because the flying taxi could be arriving in your city by 2020.
That’s all for now.
Until next time,