The secretive eVTOL startup Joby Aviation has signed on as a vehicle partner for Uber’s Elevate initiative — becoming the first such partner committed to deploying air taxi services by 2023.
Uber and Joby announced the multi-year commercial partnership on Dec. 20. Under the agreement, Joby will supply and operate electric air taxis, while Uber will provide airspace support services, skyport infrastructure, connections to ground transportation, and customer interfaces through an aerial rideshare network.
Uber has named Dallas, Los Angeles, and Melbourne, Australia as launch cities for the Uber Elevate initiative, which aims to provide short-distance ridesharing flights in densely populated urban areas using fleets of four-person, piloted electric aircraft.
“We’re excited to partner with Uber,” stated Joby Aviation CEO JoeBen Bevirt. “By bringing our next-generation aircraft and urban flight operations to Uber’s on-demand ground mobility network, we aim to get people to their destinations five times faster than driving, reduce urban congestion, and accelerate the shift to sustainable modes of transit.”
Uber head of Elevate Eric Allison described Joby as “a real technology leader” and said, “With this partnership, we are excited to take the next step in bringing our on-demand aerial ridesharing service to life.”
Based in California, Joby Aviation is a venture-funded aerospace company. Compared to conventional aircraft, its eVTOL air taxis are intended to be “dramatically quieter, safer, more affordable, and more environmentally friendly,” the company said.
Joby has yet to reveal the full design of its four-seat S4, but has shared that it has six tilting and folding blade propellers, a 35-foot (10.7-meter) span high wing, and a V tail, according to the Vertical Flight Society’s World eVTOL Directory. A distributed electric propulsion system powered by lithium-nickel-cobalt-manganese-oxide batteries will provide a range of 150 miles (241 kilometers).
The vehicle also employs a unified flight control system for the pilot to simplify transitions between VTOL and horizontal flight modes, as Joby chief test pilot Justin Paines discussed with eVTOL.com earlier this year.
Joby said it expects to be among the first air taxi developers to commercialize eVTOL aircraft for passenger use, thanks to its “best-in-class technology, financial backing, and strategic relationships.” Its investors include Intel Capital, Toyota AI Ventures, JetBlue Technology Ventures, and Capricorn Investment Group.