The future is here—or, at least it could be getting closer. A little company called Zee.Aero has been working for the past several years to develop a small electric plane that can take off and land vertically. In essence, it’s an honest to goodness flying car. What we didn’t know about the company, which set up shop adjacent to Google’s Mountain View HQ, is that the man backing the operations is none other than Google co-founder Larry Page. Bloomberg Businessweek broke the news, sending the collective tech and transportation worlds into a tizzy of anticipation.
Page’s involvement in the flying car startup has been kept under wraps since the company’s founding in 2010. Reporters long suspected Zee.Aero had some sort of ties to Google, but few suspected the truth we learned today. Now, though, it’s become clear that Page—who co-founded Google with Sergey Brin, and is now the CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc —is Zee.Aero’s primary source of funding. Page has invested more than $100 million in the company since its creation.
But, wait, there’s more. In addition to backing the flying car venture, Page has also been channeling funds into another startup, Kitty Hawk, which is working on a similar project. If this scenario is starting to sound familiar, it’s because it’s not wholly unlike the investments Elon Musk has made, using his personal wealth to back companies who are working on projects like rocketing to Mars or building ultra-uber-high-speed public transit. Like Musk, Page is putting his money where his dreams are, much to the delight of futuristic car buffs everywhere.
As for the flying car itself, what is known to the public is largely limited to patent filings (like the image above, from 2012) and the rare sneak peek of a test flight. Zee.Aero is growing fast, with 150 employees and it recently expanded operations moving into a nearby airplane hangar. There, two prototypes take regular test flights, away from the public’s prying eyes. Meanwhile, the much smaller Kitty Hawk continues to grind away on a competing design. Reportedly, employees of the two companies do not interact, protecting each team’s opportunity to innovate without interference.
Despite flying car prototypes in construction, and aloft, there is no word on when, if ever, this car of the future will be released to the public. It’s entirely possible that it will never happen, though, because this could just be one of those things billionaires do when they have more money than they know what to do with.
Via The Verge