Watch Larry Page's self-flying air taxi lift-off


The world's first commercial autonomous flying taxi service is hitting the runway in New Zealand.

Kitty Hawk has been testing its Cora flying taxi since October 2017 in New Zealand.

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 flying machine is entirely electric, emission-free, and can fly at speeds in excess of 150 kph (more than 93 mph) and up to 100 kilometers (62 miles), according to the company.

Certifying the vehicle with a regulatory body will be a major undertaking, but if Kitty Hawk and Page succeed, New Zealand could lay out the blueprint for aviation regulators worldwide.

Current regulations in the U.S. would make a Kitty Hawk taxi service impossible.

The flying taxi can "take off like a helicopter and transition to flying like a plane", the company says.

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The Cora project envisages they will become so common that "air travel will be woven into our daily lives".

As The New York Times reports, Kitty Hawk has been flying Cora over the South Island of New Zealand since October a year ago. There has been some speculation about the origin of Zephyr because it lists its chief executive as Fred Reid, who had also been listed as president of Zee Aero. Images released by Kitty Hawk on 12 March reveal a steady progression of development, which began with tests of a scaled glider eight years ago. It does all this without a trained pilot aboard, navigating through airspace with a combination of self-flying software and human oversight.

The New York Times reports that the firm-a project funded by Larry Page and led by Sebastian Thrun-has been trialling its Cora air taxi in New Zealand.

Kitty Hawk's new Cora video claims the aircraft is "self-piloting" so, again, there's no need for a pilot's license.

Cora can carry two passengers at once, and will elevate between 500 and 3,000 feet above the ground for its flights.

Federal Aviation Administration rules would have made it hard to get a project like this off the ground in the United States. As we recently saw in California, US state governments have shown some willingness for companies to test autonomous driving technology, so long as cars are following the rules of the road.

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