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Pacific News Minute: The Jetsons Are Here! Flying Taxis to Debut in New Zealand

Alex Butterfield

In the future, you’ll be able to use an app to summon an autonomous flying taxi just like "The Jetsons." Well, the future may be closer than you think, and apparently, the Jetsons live in New Zealand. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

The taxi itself is called Cora; half-drone, half-airplane, and all-new. Six drone-like rotors on each wing allow Cora to take off and land like a helicopter on a roof or a parking lot. Once in the air, a push propellar lets it fly like an airplane, carrying two passengers up to 62 miles as fast as 110 miles an hour.

The company is called Kitty Hawk, personally financed by billionaire Larry Page, one of the founders of Google and now CEO of its parent corporation, Alphabet. According to the New York Times, Page deked competitors with tests of a different self-piloting plane in Northern California, while he was secretly working in New Zealand.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an agreement to test Kitty Hawk’s air taxis as part of an official certification process. In an email, the Prime Minister sent “…a message to the world that our doors are open for people with great ideas.”

Credit Marcin Mycielski, European Parliament / Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Larry Page

New Zealand is not known as a hotbed of autonomous vehicle development, but, according to the Times, it boasts a thoughtful and safety-conscious regulatory regime, so any rules it develops could serve as templates for the rest of the world.

If Kitty Hawk can meet its goal to get a fleet of Coras up within three years, it will steal a march on rivals like Uber, Boeing and China’s EHang.

But skeptics warn that George and Jane Jetson have called air taxis many times in recent years, and they’re still waiting.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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