Published: Wed, March 14, 2018
Money | By Ethel Goodwin

Self-Flying Air Taxi Tested in New Zealand

Self-Flying Air Taxi Tested in New Zealand

Kitty Hawk's intent is to have the aircraft certified for fully autonomous operation by launch, which it hopes will happen sometime around 2021 once it completes testing with New Zealand, its first partner on the government and regulatory side. The 36-foot aircraft is called Cora and has 12 battery-powered rotors, with the ability to carry two passengers some 62 miles. Flying cars are also proving to be big hits at auto shows - Airbus and Audi unveiled a concept at this year's Geneva Motor Show, alongside the Pal-V Liberty autogyro. But there was no place in the world where Cora could take the next step.

The New York Times reports that the firm-a project funded by Larry Page and led by Sebastian Thrun-has been trialling its Cora air taxi in New Zealand.

Kitty Hawk was founded by Sebastian Thrun, Google's former director of Google X, its advanced research division which also oversaw Google's autonomous vehicle developments.

Thus far, the agency, which oversees much busier skies than New Zealand and has always been underfunded, has been slow to adopt rules for new technologies. But those countries have never been seen as models for aviation regulators in the rest of the developed world. That means that the rules it develops may become a template for other nations, including the United States. In November, Boeing acquired Aurora Flight Sciences.

The company, Kitty Hawk, released a video and statement debuting the vehicle, called Cora, today (March 13).

The mystery of what has been going on in New Zealand has quietly created a stir among those in the know.

He had been funding Zee.Aero and Kitty Hawk, formerly rival companies based in California's Silicon Valley.

"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. The company suggested a long-term plan to bring a commercial air-taxi service to New Zealand. Alphabet's own Waymo has been betting on putting autonomous vehicles on public roads, while Uber is hedging its bets with both autonomous driving options and air taxis, though both of those are still years away from being fully commercialized.

Flying cars, autonomous or otherwise, have picked up major traction in the last few years.

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