Toyota has joined Korea’s Hyundai in making a substantial bet that the Jetson’s promise of flying cars — or at least airborne taxis — is almost upon us.
The Japanese giant has made a US349 million investment in US-based Joby Aviation and its attempts to develop and commercialize electric vertical take-off and landing (eVOTL) aircraft for the urban air mobility market.
Joby is developing a four-passenger aircraft that can travel at 200mph, travel more than 150 miles on a single charge is 100 times quieter than a conventional aircraft with zero operational carbon emissions.
Like the recently announced Hyundai-Uber partnership, California-based Joby sees its aircraft as a congestion buster. It proposes that it will be operated for passengers and delivered as a service with a trained pilot at the helm.
Others in the race include Europe’s Airbus, Kitty Hawk, backed by Alphabet co-founder Larry Page and Boeing, as well as Volocopter, whose investors include Daimler AG.
All face significant regulatory hurdles as well as concerns about safety and noise.
Toyota will share its expertise in quality, manufacturing and costs controls with Joby and says the US company’s design is well-matched to embrace the needs of the emerging urban air transport market.
The Japanese giant hopes the collaboration will bring urban on-demand transport into the mainstream and its production system will facilitate efficient mass production of high-quality aircraft.
“Air transportation has been a long-term goal for Toyota, and while we continue our work in the automobile business, this agreement sets our sights to the sky,” said Toyota Motor Corporation chief executive Akio Toyoda.
“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.”
Joby founder JoeBen Bevirt said the collaboration represented an unprecedented commitment of money and resources for the company.
“Toyota is known globally for the quality and reliability of their products driven by meticulous attention to detail and manufacturing processes,’’ he said.
“I am excited to harness Toyota’s engineering and manufacturing prowess to drive us toward our dream of helping a billion people save an hour plus commuting time every day.”