Larry Page’s self-flying Cora taxi takes flight – and it’s like an Uber for the skies
Just 15 years ago, people would have laughed at you if you’d told them that in the year 2018 they’d be hailing taxis off their phones without dialling a number. True, they’d probably be more keen to show you the amazing photos taken on their Nokia 6600’s 0.3-megapixel camera to listen to your mad ramblings, but things are about to get more unbelievable. Kitty Hawk, the company funded by Alphabet and Google CEO Larry Page is testing its first autonomous flying taxi in New Zealand, with a view to becoming some kind of Uber for the skies by 2021.
Dubbed Cora, the battery-powered self-flying taxi operates at a height of between 500 and 3,000 feet and can travel a distance of 62 miles on a single charge. It can do this at a speed of up to 110mph meaning very short haul flights are the order of the day – which is probably just as well for us long-legged folk. It’s supposed to fit two people, but you’d better hope you like the person you’re stuck with for the duration of the flight: you’re going to get to know them well by the looks of things.
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In fact, it’s pretty compact all over – even its wingspan is just 12 feet, on which a dozen rotors sit to force the vehicle into the air. If you’re worrying that a future of autonomous air taxis means that a lot of runways need to be built, then relax: the Cora can take off vertically, so any old (flat) rooftop will do the job.
If people are nervous about the idea of a self-driving car, they’re likely to be darn right terrified of a self-flying car. Perhaps attune to this possibility, the company’s FAQ goes into great detail about safety. Cora has three independent flight computers and can continue to navigate if one fails; each rotor works independently; and if all else fails the vehicle has a parachute for landing in a pinch.
The company is building an app to let you hail a Cora, though that seems a touch premature, given the testing phase is only just underway, and Kitty Hawk only intends to launch its fleet of flying taxis in the next three years. For now, you’re probably best off taking the train.