Uber’s ambitious plans to launch an urban air taxi service just got a lift from a secretive, well-financed startup. The ride-hailing company said it would join forces with Joby Aviation, a California-based aerospace company that has been working on electric aviation for over a decade. Joby is the first company to commit to Uber’s aggressive timetable to launch its flying taxi service by 2023.
Joby is the brainchild of inventor JoeBen Bevirt, who started the company in 2009. The company operated in relative obscurity until 2018, when Joby announced it had raised a surprising $100 million from a variety of investors, including the venture capital arms of Intel, Toyota, and JetBlue. The money helped finance the development of the company’s air taxi prototype, which has been conducting test flights at Joby’s private airfield in Northern California.
Unlike the dozens of other companies that are currently building electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, Joby has kept much of its project under wraps. The few renderings that are out there show a plane-drone hybrid with 12 rotors and room in the cabin for four passengers, though a spokesperson previously cautioned that what Joby is working on now is “entirely new.” The company has yet to provide any recent photographs or images of its prototype aircraft.