Autonomous flying taxi firm, backed by Google co-founder, unveils first plane

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The company, known as Kitty Hawk and run by Sebastian Thrun, who helped start Google's autonomous vehicle unit as the director of Google X, has been testing a new kind of fully electric, self-piloting flying taxi.

It's been nearly a year since the company showed off a vehicle called Flyer, which was a much more cut-down affair that looked best designed for some new kind of aero-aquatic sport.

The venture has been unveiled by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, alongside Zephyr Airworks, the local operator of Kitty Hawk, which is backed by Alphabet CEO Larry Page.

Google cofounder Larry Page's flying taxi project is cleared for take off.

Sebastian Thrun, the entrepreneur and computer scientist who formerly headed up Google's self-driving vehicle efforts, is in charge of Kitty Hawk. Having government officials willing to support Cora probably helps, too.

After 18 months of discussions with the authorities it will now begin the process... That's exactly what any company wants to hear. That's why Cora can take off and land like a helicopter, eliminating the need for runways,"the company said on its website".

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"I have had the privilege of seeing the self-piloted air taxi and I am very excited about what it offers for future generations - to live and move in a way that has never been possible before".

Cora can fly 500 feet to 3,000 feet above ground, has a 36-foot wingspan and can go at a speed of up to 100 miles an hour.

The US Federal Aviation Administration now lacks a certification basis to accept the airworthiness of such vehicles to transport fare-paying passengers.

Cora is the creation of a small company named Kitty Hawk. Page has secretly worked with a company called Kitty Hawk, run by Sebastian Thrun. But aviation regulators in the rest of the world do not see those countries as models. That means that the rules it develops may become a template for other nations, including the United States. Boeing bought Aurora Flight Sciences, Airbus made an investment in Blade, and Uber is already working on the same idea with Uber Elevate.

But developers say it is much quieter, meaning it could transport passengers in urban areas using rooftops and auto parks as landing pads.

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