Kittyhawk, the air-taxi company backed by billionaire Google co-founder Larry Page, will be closing down, dealing a setback to the long-elusive dream of developing flying cars.
“We’re still working on the details of what’s next,” the company said on Twitter last week.
The company’s technology is expected to live on in the form of its Wisk Aero joint venture with airplane maker Boeing, which invested $450 million in the partnership. Wisk’s operations won’t be affected by Kittyhawk’s shutdown, Boeing said.
Kittyhawk was founded in 2010 to pioneer the market for eVTOLs — electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft — with the lofty goal of democratizing the skies. The secretive company was run by Sebastian Thrun, a Google veteran who worked on self-driving cars, augmented reality glasses and other projects.
The business was one of several startups working on the concept, which has proven to be a greater challenge than some expected. Air taxis have crashed during testing in recent months, raising concerns about their safety.
Kittyhawk’s goal was to make an air taxi that could be remotely piloted, was smaller and lighter than other eVTOLs, and could take off from nearly anywhere. The company was targeting a cost of less than $1 a mile, which would have made the taxis cheaper than ride-sharing services.
Its shutdown shows how hard the market is to crack. As of late last week, the company still had this message on its home page: “If anyone can do this, we can.”