Google Co-Founder Larry Page invested heavily in a very secretive company called Kitty Hawk, run by Google X’s former executive Sebastian Thrun, and now the self-piloting flying taxis that the company has been working on are ready to be revealed to the public. The first model is called Cora, and it’s a cross between a drone and an airplane, design-wise. 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. Now, it would seem that Cora and the company behind it are almost ready for prime time, as Kitty Hawk and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced that an agreement has been reached that will see Kitty Hawk’s portfolio officially tested for certification. The goal, according to a report from the New York Times, is to have a network of commercial air taxis up and flying over new New Zealand within three years.
Kitty Hawk’s first publicly revealed air taxi, Cora, is a fully autonomous and electric machine. It takes off vertically like a helicopter and then flies horizontally at fairly high speeds like an airplane. The progress made by Kitty Hawk, according to the Prime Minister, should serve as a signal that New Zealand is ready to accept great ideas in the tech sphere, even when more developed nations like the United States may still not be equipped to adopt such innovations from a regulatory standpoint.
Page’s involvement in Kitty Hawk was mostly secret until recently, thanks to a shell company called Zephyr Airworks. Page’s involvement with a California entity called Zee Airworks on similar grounds has been a bit less of a secret, though Zee Airworks has yet to lay anything out publicly in the same manner that Kitty Hawk has. Around the world, a number of companies are fighting over who’s going to revolutionize personal transportation and how it’s going to be done. Alphabet’s own Waymo has been betting on putting autonomous vehicles on public roads, while Uber is hedging its bets with both autonomous driving options and air taxis, though both of those are still years away from being fully commercialized.