Toyota Motor Company will invest over $392 million in Joby Aviation, an enterprise working on commercializing flying for a faster and affordable commute in traffic gridlocked urban centers.
Joby Aviation was started in 2009 and is manufacturing a four-passenger electric aircraft propelled by multiple rotors, which can land vertically like a helicopter.
The giant automaker is looking to expand its presence beyond just automobiles. As the company CEO Akio Toyoda said in his keynote address at the CES 2020, “The company wants to move from manufacturing to mobility.”
“Air transportation has been a long-term goal for Toyota, and while we continue our work in the automobile business, this agreement sets our sights to the sky,” Toyoda said in a press statement.
Toyota is the lead investor in Joby’s $588 million Series C funding. The deal makes Joby Aviation the best-funded startup in this electric vehicle take-off and landing (eVOTL)category.
Toyota will offer its expertise in automobile manufacturing and quality control to Joby, which already has a partnership with Uber to develop an urban air taxi service.
Joby Aviation is a California-based aviation company founded by JoeBen Bevirt that has been trying to build a new kind of short hop aircraft for the past few years.
According to a Bloomberg report, the only news service to access the vehicle, the prototype is called Rachel.
The report described it as a cross between a drone and an airplane with electric motors and sophisticated controls. It traveled air at twice the speed of a helicopter and landed and took off vertically in a smooth manner.
Joby is not the only company in the eVOTL space. There are 19 other companies developing air taxis, according to a Verge report. Boeing, Airbus, Uber, and KitiHawk owned by Larry Page, Google founder, are some of the big names trying to come up with flying prototypes.
Volvo and Daimler have also bought aviation startups called Terrafugia and Volvocopter, respectively.
Toyota has expanded into futuristic transport and smart options recently. It announced the Woven City, a smart city that it intends to build near the base of Mount Fiji in Japan. It will be a showcase for self-driven cars and smart operated roadways.
Toyota has invested in mobility startups like Recogni Inc., SkyDrive, and May Mobility, all into autonomous transportation systems.