Japan’s largest airline and flying taxi startup Joby Aviation have announced plans to get aerial ridesharing to the country’s third-largest city, Osaka.
In a report on Monday, airline ANA and the Californian startup expressed traveling by air would cut the travel time from central Osaka to the city’s Kansai Airport to just 15 minutes, reached to an hour by car.
Joby’s founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt said
Joby’s founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt told the startup wanted to provide a greener way of journeying quickly via its electric-powered vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
“Japan offers us a spectacular possibility to do just that with 92 percent of the people living in urban locations and Tokyo registering as one of the top 20 most congested cities in the world,” he told.
Japanese carmaker Toyota, which has invested almost $400 million (€352.5 million) in Joby will also join the partnership, the companies said.
Japan’s government has been pushing to develop aerial rideshare services for several years. In 2018, it revealed a document called the “roadmap towards air mobility revolution,” which targeted 2023 as the starting date for commercial flying taxi services.
ANA and Joby’s information did not commit to the launching date – or even year – for bringing the company’s five-seater aircraft to Japan, although the 2025 Osaka World Expo has previously been highlighted by other operators as a potential starting point.
Last year, Japanese flying car startup Skydrive signed a deal with Osaka authorities to provide an air taxi service for the 2025 event.
“Not only installing eVTOL but also building social acceptance and developing a startup ecosystem in Osaka might be possible under the agreement,” company chief executive Tomohiro Fukuzawa told journalists at the moment.
ANA’s main rival, Japan Airlines
ANA’s main rival, Japan Airlines (JAL), has also been making noises about eVTOL aircraft, investing in German flying car startup Volocopter in February 2020.
But while Japan’s airline industry and politicians have been talking up aerial rideshare services, there is a lot of work to do before the flying taxis can take off.
In Monday’s announcement, ANA and Joby told they would work together to develop the necessities for running a flying taxi service, including the “infrastructure, pilot training, flight operations, air traffic management, public acceptance, and the regulatory needs to work”.
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Public acceptance might be a challenge in Japan, where noise-sensitive residents have previously protested against low-altitude flights over urban areas.
Last year, Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun newspaper reported on noise complaints against US military helicopters in Tokyo, where the aircraft allegedly flew as low as 100 meters above residential areas.
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