New Delhi: Google founder Larry Page has invested over $100 million in two start-ups that are seeking to build flying cars,Bloomberg Businessweek reported on Thursday. Page’s plan to disrupt two industries— aviation and automotive—is far more radical than Google holding company Alphabet’s work on driverless cars, and also promises to solve pressing problems people face currently in getting around by cars and by planes.
One of the companies, Zee.Aero, set up shop three years ago next to the Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, and has since grown to be a 150-member team, the magazine reported. It even has a hangar at Hollister, from “where a pair of prototype aircraft takes regular test flights”,Businessweek said. Last year, Page invested in another company, Kitty Hawk, which, again, operates not too far from Zee.Aero’s office. Businessweek reported that Kitty Hawk, named after the North Carolina Town where the Wright brothers tested their early prototypes of aircraft, was headed in 2015 by “Sebastian Thrun, the godfather of Google’s self-driving car program and the founder of research division Google X.”
Still, while the companies have been low-profile, and Page’s involvement in them not known till now, there have been a few reports on the flying cars. In a November 2013 report, Gizmag said: “Zee.Aero, a small company located near the GooglePlex, home to Google, is working on a flying car concept that can take off and land vertically using a plethora of small electric motors turning four-bladed propellers. According to illustrations included with the patent filings, one version of the vehicle is narrow enough to fit into a standard shopping center parking space.” The report featured detailed drawings of Zee.Aero’s flying cars and also named Ilan Kroo, whom it identified as “an aeronautics professor and Nasa scientist” as the founder of the company and the “inventor on the patent applications” for the flying car.
The report—neither Google nor Page participated in the story—highlights the audacious and ambitious scope of the thinking of some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names. If it is flying cars reminiscent of The Jetsons for Page, it is commercial space travel for Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. TheBusinessweek report said that this showed that “bold, some might say far-fetched, invention is alive and well in Silicon Valley”.
“The place that spent the past decade focused on social network apps has trained its engineering powers on robots, cars, and now aviation,” it added.