Joby Aviation, Japan’s largest airline and taxi driver, has announced plans to bring flights to Osaka, the country’s third largest city.
In a statement on Monday, airline ANA and the California startup said air travel would cut the journey time from central Osaka to the city’s Kansai airport to just 15 minutes, compared to an hour’s drive.
JoeBen Bevirt, founder and CEO of Joby, said the startup wanted to provide a more environmentally friendly way to travel quickly via electric powered vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
“Japan presents us with a great opportunity to do so, with 92 percent of the population living in urban areas and Tokyo registered as one of the 20 most crowded cities in the world,” he said.
The airport, located on an artificial island 38 kilometers west of Osaka, can be reached by monorail in 34 to 65 minutes.
The two companies said Japanese automaker Toyota, which has invested nearly $400 million (352.5 million euros) in Joby, will also join the partnership.
Aiming for 2025
The Japanese government has been pushing for the development of air transportation services for a number of years. In 2018, it revealed a document called the “Roadmap to the Air Mobility Revolution,” which targeted 2023 as the start date for commercial flying taxi services.
ANA’s announcement and Joby did not commit to a launch date – or even a year – to bring the company’s five-seater plane to Japan, although Osaka World Expo 2025 has previously been highlighted by other operators as a potential starting point.
Last year, Japanese flying car maker Skydrive signed an agreement with Osaka authorities to provide air taxi service for the 2025 event.
“Not only installing eVTOL but also building social acceptance and developing a startup ecosystem in Osaka may be possible under the agreement,” said CEO Tomohiro Fukuzawa. reporters on time.
Japan Airlines (JAL), ANA’s main competitor, has been making hype about eVTOL planes, investing in German flying car startup Volocopter in February 2020.
But while Japan’s airline industry and politicians talk about air transport services, there is a lot of work to be done before flying taxis can take off.
In Monday’s announcement, ANA and Joby said they will work together to develop basic necessities to operate the flying taxi service, including “infrastructure, pilot training, flight operations, air traffic management, public acceptance and business regulatory requirements.”
Public acceptance may be a challenge in Japan, where residents with noise sensitivity previously protested flights at lower altitudes over urban areas.
Last year, Japan Mainichi Shimbun The newspaper reported noise complaints against US military helicopters in Tokyo, where the aircraft was said to have flown at an altitude of up to 100 meters over residential areas.
“I want them to make more rational trips,” one resident told the newspaper.