Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Science | By Dan Gutierrez

Google Co-Founder's Flying Taxi Takes To The Skies In New Zealand

Google Co-Founder's Flying Taxi Takes To The Skies In New Zealand

A company funded by Google co-founder Larry Page has been secretly testing what it hopes to be the future of personal travel: a self-driving "air taxi". Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun (who previously ran Google's self-driving vehicle project), said the first thing officials asked was how they could make the regulatory process faster for Kitty Hawk.

Known as Cora, the electric aircraft has a dozen lift fans on its wings, making it capable of vertical take-off and landing like a helicopter.

"We have been working closely with Zephyr Airworks and this partnership is a significant demonstration of our joint commitment to finding ways to improve future ways of living", ChristchurchNZ chief executive Joanna Norris says.

No matter what you call it, electric-powered, autonomous aircraft are starting tests in New Zealand, with the aim of carrying passengers in three years. It has a range of about 100 kilometres and can hit speeds of 150kmh.

Zephyr said using the air taxi would be a simple experience for passengers, similar to taking a ride-share in a vehicle. According to the video, the Cora is fully automated and fully electric, and requires no piloting skills to operate. Being that the plane is fairly quiet, it could help make the idea of flying taxis more appealing, being that city residents won't have to constantly be disturbed by the loud sounds of traditional planes.

"And it would be all-electric, helping to build a sustainable world".

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"Let's not forget this part of the world is where Richard Pearse first pioneered flying, something we honour with a sculpture within our airport terminal, so it's great to see this bold thinking being revealed here too", he says.

"They could have laughed us out of the room".

Cora has been given an experimental airworthiness certificate from the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority.

You might not think of New Zealand as being on the cutting edge of aviation innovations, but with a new self-flying taxi aiming to achieve regulatory approval, perhaps it's time to rethink that assessment.

"This aircraft represents the evolution of the transport eco system to one that responds to a global challenge around traffic and congestion, and is kinder to the planet".

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