By Kalai Raajan
Joby Aviation, ANA Form Partnership to Launch Air Taxi Service
On Feb. 14, ANA and Joby Aviation announced an agreement that will see Japan’s largest airline unite with the aerospace company to offer aerial ridesharing services to Japan. Toyota Motor Corporation has also joined the agreement — with plans to study potential topics such as ground-based mobility.
Joby’s intention to establish operations in Japan comes just a week after the business revealed intentions to launch an air taxi service in South Korea in collaboration with SK Telecom. It will collaborate with the T Map Mobility platform — a subsidiary of SK Telecom — to integrate air taxis into T Map’s subscription-based mobility-as-a-service platform.
Joby is building an all-electric, five-seat aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL). Joby’s piloted aircraft is meant to make comfortable, emissions-free air travel an everyday reality, with a maximum range of 150 miles or 241 kilometers, a top speed of 200 mph or 321 km/h and a low noise profile that allows it to approach densely-populated areas. For example, the 31-mile or 50-kilometer flight from Osaka Station to Kansai International Airport may take less than 15 minutes instead of an hour by car.
The aerospace company’s electric vehicles can only carry four passengers, so commercial services will most likely be limited in the beginning. We’re definitely a few years away from air taxi services becoming mainstream until Joby begins mass-producing its existing models or builds considerably larger eVTOLs. This is due not just to the time and money required to create eVTOLs, but also to potential regulatory roadblocks.
Joby still needs to acquire certification in every area it wants to enter, but it did hit a milestone last week when it signed a G-1 or stage four Certification Basis for its aircraft with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). This authorizes Joby to undertake conformity testing and enter the “implementation phase” within the U.S., which essentially means that it can begin designing and manufacturing composite parts for its aircraft.
Joby’s latest move reflects the company’s strategy of partnering with local businesses to launch its service in regions outside the United States, according to the company. The airline and the startup will collaborate on infrastructure development, pilot training, flight operations and air traffic management. The partners will also have cooperative conversations with key commercial enterprises besides local and national governments such as Japan’s Ministry of Transport, in order to speed the country’s adoption of aerial ridesharing.
JoeBen Bevirt, Founder and CEO of Joby, said, “Joby exists to help people save time while reducing their carbon footprint. Japan offers us a spectacular opportunity to do just that with 92%¹ of the population living in urban areas and Tokyo registering as one of the top 20 most congested cities in the world,” in regards to the partnership and the opportunity presented by the Japanese market.
Electric air taxis are becoming a reality as the initial wave of concepts matures and developers seek funding from the market. A flurry of negotiations with airlines and lessors in the sector during the last year indicates that competition to seal agreements is heating up. With Japan set to host the World Expo in Osaka in 2025, the proposal gained traction in the country. Similar agreements have taken place in other countries, with Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes — one of Brazil’s low-cost airlines — ordering flying taxis from the British company Vertical Aerospace Group.
ANA Holdings Director and Executive Vice President Koji Shibata, said, “Our customers value efficiency very highly, so being able to provide them with the option to travel rapidly and sustainably from an international airport to a downtown location is very appealing.”
While Joby’s aerial ridesharing service will be operated directly by the company and available to passengers in core U.S. markets via the Joby app or Uber app, this announcement reflects Joby’s strategy to partner with local companies committed to delivering exceptional customer service and operational excellence to launch its service in select markets outside the U.S. The company also plans to collaborate with local ground mobility partners to provide clients with smooth, end-to-end journeys.