In today’s brutal mobility tech scene, it takes an entrepreneur going out of his way to test his invention to convince the world it’s real. After Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson volunteer to be the first passengers of respective space companies Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, another intrepid founder is aiming for the sky, this time in a flying car.
Sebastian Thrun, CEO of air taxi startup Kitty Hawk, said: Bloomberg In an interview published this week, he said he will be the company’s first passenger and will fly a prototype electric vehicle when it’s ready. The company says Kitty Hawk’s single-seat Heaviside will reach 1,000 feet in the air and hover for five minutes on its first crewed flight.
Thrun has a commercial pilot’s license, but the first flying car experience will be completely hands-free. Many of Kitty Hawks’ competitors and self-driving car companies are developing autonomous vehicles that allow a human pilot or driver to take over at any time.
Thrun considers this approach to be inefficient. “You spend a lot of time building an airplane that can pilot and then you spend the same amount of energy pulling the controls out of the effort,” he told Bloomberg. “From the very beginning, I believe we should get where we really want to go.”
Many of these companies are working on multi-seat prototypes that will one day replace conventional taxis. But Kitty Hawk deliberately follows a one-man setup. Thrun said the design is crucial in making air taxis affordable in the long run.
“I firmly believe that when you switch to a four-seater, you will be four times more expensive in everything,” he said, adding that only a single-seater flying car will match the price of a petrol car.
eVTOLs are small, battery-powered aircraft that require no runways for takeoff and landing, and are much quieter in flight than helicopters, making them the perfect solution for urban traffic congestion.