Toyota is looking skyward, announcing a collaboration with Joby Aviation (Joby), an aerospace company that is developing and commercializing all-electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
The two companies hope that by working together, they can meet the potential of the air taxi market -- something that is in its infancy today but is expected to explore in the near future.
“Air transportation has been a long-term goal for Toyota, and while we continue our work in the automobile business, this agreement sets our sights to the sky,” said Toyota President and CEO Akio Toyoda.
Toyota will be the lead investor in Joby’s $590 million start-up, putting it in a ground floor position should Joby emerge as a leader in the air taxi industry. Besides the financial investment, Toyota will share its expertise in manufacturing, quality, and cost controls for the development and production of Joby Aviation’s breakthrough eVTOL aircraft.
Follows Uber and Hyundai venture
The announcement comes a week after Uber and Hyundaiannounced that they plan to use flying cars to launch an aerial rideshare network. The concept is aimed at speeding mobility through congested urban areas.
Uber has been working on this for some time. In 2018, it held a summit with aerospace companies to go over some potential designs. In the end, the rideshare giant decided to partner with an automotive company.
Toyota says it chose to partner with Joby because it believes the company’s design is well matched to serve the needs of an emerging air transportation market. But how that market will operate remains to be determined.
City planners have been looking to the skies as urban streets have become more congested. Helicopters are notoriously expensive, but there was a famous instance last month where a helicopter ride from New York’s JFK Airport to Manhattan cost slightly less than a ride-share.
Details to come later
The two companies said details of the prototype aircraft and production plans will be announced at a later date.
“This collaboration with Toyota represents an unprecedented commitment of money and resources for us, and for this new industry, from one of the world’s leading automakers,” said Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt. “Toyota is known globally for the quality and reliability of its products driven by meticulous attention to detail and manufacturing processes.
There are, of course, air taxi services now, but their costs can be quite high. The newly launched ventures between automakers and service providers are aimed at developing so-called “flying cars” that will be electric-powered and easier and cheaper to operate.