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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.”
The aircraft is totally electric and takes off from the ground like a helicopter before flying through the air like a plane. Once it’s reached its destination, the craft lands helicopter-style. It does all this without a trained pilot aboard, navigating through airspace with a combination of self-flying software and human oversight. Its name is Cora.
“This aircraft represents the evolution of the transport ecosystem to one that responds to a global challenge around traffic and congestion, and is kinder to the planet,” Christchurch’s mayor Lianne Dalziel said in a statement.
According to Kitty Hawk’s website, Cora is designed to help you save time by “soaring over traffic,” and bring the airport to you. “Cora has the potential to transform spaces like rooftops and parking lots into places to take off right from your neighborhood,” its website explains.
In the video below, you can watch Cora in action. Being electric, the air taxi is also “remarkably quiet,” according to Eric Allison, Kitty Hawk’s vice president of engineering.
It has a number of different safety features onboard, including rotors that operate independently and three independent flight computers. It also includes a parachute that deploys if Cora needs to launch without its fans.
Sebastian Thrun, the entrepreneur and computer scientist who formerly headed up Google’s self-driving car efforts, is in charge of Kitty Hawk. The company has been working on this air taxi, Cora, for the past eight years.
Currently, there’s no timeline as to when Cora will be available to the public and no details on the eventual pricing for rides in the vehicle. As an air taxi, Cora models wouldn’t be for sale. You’d hail or reserve one, as you would an Uber—although it’s safe to expect that an air taxi ride would be more expensive than your average Lyft home.
H/T SBS News
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.