Two start-ups specialising in autonomous vehicles and financed by Larry Page, co-founder of Google, have unveiled Cora, a driverless taxi which is set to be tested soon in New Zealand.
Google co-founder Larry Page caused a media stir back in 2016 with his financing of Kitty Hawk and Zee Aero, two start-ups that were rumoured to be designing prototypes of flying vehicles. Two years later, the hype has turned out to be true, with Kitty Hawk unveiling Cora, an aircraft capable of vertical take-off and landing without a runway – and therefore potentially from anywhere much like a helicopter – according to French website Numerama.
Speeds of 180 km/h and a 100-km range
Cora has 12 propellers which enable it to take off, and another larger propeller placed at the back of the transport body, which moves it around. The aircraft can fly at a speed of 180 km/h – the equivalent of half the cruising speed of a French TGV high-speed train – and an altitude of between 500 and 3,000 feet (150–910 metres, compared with an average altitude of 10 kilometres for a commercial aircraft). Its range is stated as being 100 kilometres, meaning that Cora could go for example from Paris to Orléans, Soissons or Chartres.
Three flight computers to provide better security
According to Kitty Hawk, Cora will be "fitted with three independent flight computers, each one calculating its position. Even if there is a problem with one of them, Cora can still fly safely". For extra security, the propellers function independently and the aircraft also has a parachute which deploys automatically in the event of loss of control.
Two passengers will be able to fly in Cora, which will not require a pilot’s licence due to its autonomous mode similar to the latest driverless car technology, and it could be a real boon for travel in island regions or ones lacking in infrastructure.
Tests coming soon in New Zealand
The Civil Aviation boards in the USA and New Zealand have awarded a certificate of experimental airworthiness to the Kitty Hawk electric aircraft, which will thus be allowed to fly in airspace provided that it respects certain conditions. The US company is still waiting on approval from the New Zealand authorities to be able to begin the test phase, according to the New York Times.
Also of note is that it will be Zephyr Airworks, formerly known as Zee Aero, which will manage the future Kitty Hawk autonomous taxis in New Zealand. And so it is that Larry Page’s innovative project that began in 2010 is finally seeing the light of day.
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