Uber sells its air taxi development program to Joby Aviation

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Joby Aviation is to take over Uber’s air taxi development program, Uber Elevate, in a complex deal that sees the tax-hailing app firm invest US$75 million in the aerospace company.

California, USA-based Joby has been developing its electric, vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) passenger aircraft for more than a decade and is one of the most well-established companies in the nascent market. It plans to start operating its four-passenger eVTOL in 2023.

Joby was one of eight companies including Bell, Boeing, Embraer and car-maker Hyundai that has partnered with Uber Elevate. The companies had submitted designs to Uber Elevate as potential candidates for “Uber Air” vehicles that would operate in a future air taxi network run by Uber.

While the partner-companies developed aircraft, Uber Elevate was focused on creating the back-end systems and software that will run an air taxi network and working with regulators to deliver the first commercial operations.

As part of the deal that offloads the Elevate project, Uber is investing US$75 million in Joby and the two firms have committed to integrating their respective ground and air travel services into each other’s apps in the future.

 JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO, Joby Aviation said, “We were proud to partner with Uber Elevate last year and we’re even prouder to be welcoming them into the Joby team today, while deepening our cooperation.

“The team at Uber Elevate has not only played an important role in our industry, they have also developed a remarkable set of software tools that build on more than a decade of experience enabling on-demand mobility.

“These tools and new team members will be invaluable to us as we accelerate our plans for commercial launch.”

Joby is currently testing a prototype to prove the viability of its future business model but is yet to select target cities for the launch of operations.

According to Joby its eVTOL will be able to fly 150 miles on a single charge, carry four passengers, have a top speed of 200mph and will be 100 times quieter during takeoff and landing compared to conventional aircraft.

Joby has previously said its aircraft will be type certified and maintained under Part 43/119 and that it plans to establish a Part 135 commercial aircraft operation once the design is certified.

CEO of Uber Dara Khosrowshahi said, “This deal allows us to deepen our partnership with Joby, the clear leader in this field, to accelerate the path to market for these technologies. We’re excited for their transformational mobility solution to become available to the millions of customers who rely on our platform.”

The deal is expected to close early next year. Uber’s latest investment brings its total funding in Joby to US$125 million after the company made a US$50 million investment in the company in January this year.

Joby Aviation’s total funding, including previous rounds, is US$820 million. The company employs more than 500 people at locations in California and Washington DC in the USA and in Munich, Germany.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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