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 have made the decision to wind down Kittyhawk,” the company said on Twitter on Wednesday. “We’re still working on the details of what’s next.”
In 2019, Kittyhawk and Boeing formed Wisk, a joint venture focused on aviation. Wisk is remaining operational, according to two people familiar with the decision.
Kittyhawk was founded in 2010 to pioneer the market for so-called eVTOLs — electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft — with the lofty goal of democratising 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 start-ups working on the concept, which has proven to be a greater challenge than some expected. Air taxis have suffered crashes 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 US$1/mile (about R11/km), which would have made the taxis cheaper than ride-sharing services.
Now Kittyhawk’s failure threatens to cast a pall on the rest of the eVTOL industry. As of Wednesday, the company still had this message on its homepage: “If anyone can do this, we can.” — Mark Bergen and Nick Turner, (c) 2022 Bloomberg LP