In today’s tech scene for mobility in the field of mobility, it takes an entrepreneur who goes out of his way to test his own invention to convince the world that it is real. After Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson volunteered to be the first passengers in their respective space companies, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, another daring founder aims for the sky – this time in a flying car.
Sebastian Thrun, CEO of the air taxi startup Kitty Hawk, told Bloomberg in an interview published this week that he would be the company’s first passenger and fly a prototype electric car when ready. Kitty Hawk’s, single-seat aircraft, called Heaviside, reaches up to 1,000 feet in the air and hovers for five minutes in its maiden-manned flight, the company says.
Thrun has a commercial pilot license, but his first experience with flying cars will be completely hands-free. Many of Kitty Hawks’ competitors as well as self-driving car companies are developing autonomous vehicles that also allow a human pilot or driver to take over at any time.
Thrun believes the approach is counterproductive. “You spend a lot of time building a pilot-compatible aircraft, and then you spend the same amount of energy taking the controls out of the effort,” he told Bloomberg. “I think from the start we really should aim for where we want to go.”
Kitty Hawk is funded solely by Google co-founder Larry Page. The secret takeoff, formed in 2010 but not known to the public until 2016, inspired a wave of electric vertical takeoff and landing cars or eVTOLs, companies in recent years such as Joby, Archer, Lilium and its own spin-off, Wisk Aero.
Most of these companies are working on multi-seat prototypes designed to replace traditional taxis one day. But Kitty Hawk is purposefully pursuing a one-seat setup. Thrun said the design is crucial to making air taxis affordable in the long run.
“I certainly believe that when you go for a four-seater, you will be four times as expensive in total,” he said, adding that only a one-person flying car will match the price of a gas car.
eVTOLs are small, battery-powered aircraft that do not require runways for takeoff and landing and are much quieter than in-flight helicopters, making them a perfect solution for urban traffic jams.
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