Boeing invests US$450mil in air taxi venture

Boeing invested RM1.88bil into Wisk, an American startup developing flying taxis, and competitor of Germany-based Volocopter 2X's air taxi seen here. — AFP

Boeing has invested US$450mil (RM1.88bil) in Wisk, a Silicon Valley air taxi venture that aspires to develop the first autonomous, all-electric passenger-carrying aircraft certified in the United States, the companies said Monday.

Flying electric taxis have been seen as a promising, emissions-free solution to address urban congestion. However, Mountain View, California-based Wisk's emphasis on autonomy is expected to push back its development timeframe compared with some rival concepts.

Marc Allen, chief strategy officer for Boeing, said in a statement that autonomy "is the key to unlocking scale," meaning that "straight-to-autonomy is a core first principle."

In 2019, Boeing joined the venture, which is also backed by Kitty Hawk Corporation, a company co-founded by Google co-founder Larry Page. Boeing has not disclosed the size of prior funding rounds.

Some other companies in the flying taxis space have envisioned piloted air taxies as a first step towards autonomous service.

Wisk has not released a timetable for commercialisation, but it envisions some 14 million annual flights serving more than 40 million people within five years of certification.

"We recognise that our self-flying first approach means that we will not be first to market," a Wisk spokesperson said. "We're ok with that. However, our progress to-date and our leadership in autonomous flight means that we will be first to market with a fully autonomous, scalable and accessible" electric air taxi.

Monday's announcement follows public stock listings of a number of other companies in the flying taxi space, including Vertical Aerospace and Joby Aviation.

The latter has said it wants to win US certification in time to launch commercial service in 2024 with piloted taxis. – AFP

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