Japanese automaker Toyota has invested $394 million in Joby, a Californian startup specializing in flying taxis. The 11-year-old tech firm, which boldly markets itself as an air-transportation-as-a-service, adds Toyota’s cash to a recent $590m round, bringing its total backing to $720m.
“We are building a new system for transportation to transform your daily life, at greater safety and, in time, at a similar cost to driving,” Joby founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt said in a statement. “This collaboration with Toyota represents an unprecedented commitment of money and resources for us and this new industry from one of the world’s leading automakers.”
The deal is one of many for Toyota, which like all leading car manufacturers has targeted the mobility tech world to steal a march on its traditional road-going competition. South Korean marque Hyundai recently released plans for its own S-A1 flying taxi, as roadless urban transport moves increasingly from the realm of science fiction to reality.
Toyota president and CEO Aiko Toyoda said air transport was a “long-term goal” for his company. “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,” Toyoda added.
Joby’s four-passenger aircraft takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter. Its electric engine can reach a top speed of 200mph and deliver 150-plus hours of service on a single charge. Regulation must move a long way to accommodate flying vehicles in cities. But Toyota’s gamble shows how flying taxis are something about which leading mobility heads are serious.