Intel Capital led the investment round, which also includes Singapore-based EDBI, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Toyota AI Ventures, Allen & Company AME Cloud Ventures, Ron Conway, Capricorn Investment Group, 8VC, Sky Dayton and Paul Sciarra. Joby also revealed a previously unsecured Series A round, led by Capricorn in 2016, which brings total funding to $130 million.
Founded by inventor JoeBen Bevirt, Joby is working to build a five-seat air taxi that will be 100 times quieter than conventional aircraft during takeoff and landing, and fly 150 miles on a charge. Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports that a prototype for the vehicle, nicknamed “Rachel,” is undergoing flight testing at Bevirt’s private airfield in Northern California.
Joby is one of a growing number of ventures that aim to produce fleets of air taxis for Uber-like rideshare services that get around traffic tie-ups on the ground. Like Rachel, most of the proposed vehicles – popularly known as flying cars – would be electric vertical-take-off-and-landing craft, or eVTOLs.
“People waste billions of hours sitting on roads worldwide each year. We envision a future where commuting by eVTOL is a safer, faster, and cost-competitive alternative to ground transportation,” Bevirt said in today’s news release. “We have spent the last 10 years developing the technologies that have made our full-scale technical demonstrator possible and are now ready to build a commercial version of the aircraft. We’re excited to have attracted the backing of leaders in auto manufacturing, data intelligence, and transportation sectors.”
Other air-taxi ventures include Airbus’ Vahana, Uber and its aviation partners, Terrafugia, VerdeGo Aero, Kitty Hawk, China’s EHang, Switzerland’s Passenger Drone, Germany’s Volocopter and Lilium, Slovakia’s AeroMobil and Japan’s Cartivator Project.
In the United States, the timetable for deploying such vehicles depends largely on the Federal Aviation Administration, which recently overhauled its certification process for small aircraft.
Some players in the aviation industry have made multiple plays in the air-taxi market. For example, JetBlue Technology is an investor in Joby as well as in a Kirkland, Wash.-based electric-aviation venture called Zunum Aero. Boeing also has invested in Zunum Aero, and last year it acquired Aurora Flight Sciences, one of Uber’s air-taxi partners.