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Larry Page-backed flying taxi start-up could beat Uber to the punch

Larry Page-backed flying taxi start-up could beat Uber to the punch

Google co-founder Larry Page and now the chief executive of Google's parent Alphabet is financing a company, Kitty Hawk, run by Sebastian Thrun, who helped start Google's autonomous vehicle unit as the director of GoogleX.

Kitty Hawk shipped its first air taxi to New Zealand back in October 2017, and initial tests of the device began shortly thereafter.

But now we know that Kitty Hawk had something more ambitious in the works: a small, electric aircraft called Cora, which flies horizontally like an airplane but has the capability to take off and land vertically.

According to the video, Cora can fly at speeds of 150 kmh (93 mph) and has a full range of 100 kilometers.

It's been nearly a year since the company showed off a vehicle called Flyer, which was a much more cut-down affair that looked best designed for some new kind of aero-aquatic sport. Cora planes can fly at an altitude of 3,00 feet. The rather diminutive craft has room for just a couple of people on board and has been seen in the skies over New Zealand doing tests in recent months.

Kitty Hawk's Cora is completely autonomous, fully electric, and can travel at speeds of 93 miles per hour.

Cora appears far more robust and is designed more like a traditional aircraft, featuring an 11-metre (36-foot) wingspan, tail and a closed canopy for passengers.

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On its website, Kitty Hawk said Cora will not be available for consumer sale, but is meant to be a part of a service similar to an airline or a rideshare.

A number of rival companies have been laying the groundwork for air taxis.

On the other hand, Dubai has formed a joint venture with a Chinese company, EHang.

Kitty Hawk has operated largely in secret until April 2017, led by Sebastian Thrun, who is also a founder of Google's self-driving auto program and online education service Udacity. Uber has a division by itself called Uber Elevate.

In an interview, Reid said the opportunity to use New Zealand as the first place to commercialize the autonomous taxi service was a step-change in the advancement of the sector.

Kitty Hawk is bringing Cora to the commercial market in New Zealand, the company announced, hailing the nation's forward-looking vision and strong regulatory environment.


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